Prosecutors on Tuesday indicted jailed Israeli drug trafficker Ze'ev Rosenstein for murder and two counts of manslaughter.
Rosenstein, who is already serving 12 years in jail for trafficking Ecstasy pills to the United States, is accused of ordering a triple killing at the Shaldag Beach on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in 2001.
According to the charge sheet, Rosenstein commissioned the muder of Rafi Weitzman, a rival underworld figure who had himself faced charges for attempting to kill Rosenstein. Assailants shot dead Weitzman and two others, David Ben Mergi and Sharon Masawi, in the attack.
Prosecutors now say they have convincing evidence that Rosenstein was behind the killings, including detailed accounts from two witnesses who only recently gave their version of events to investigators.
According to one of them, a close associate of Rosenstein at the time of the murders, the drug dealer hired a Tiberias man, Eyal Sheetrit, for the task, the prosecution alleges.
"Rosenstein's determination to hunt down his enemies by commissioning others to carry out these cruel murders points to how dangerous a man he is and to criminal codes that have consequences which demand no explanation," prosecutors said.
Police were working on a separate investigation into cocaine smuggling to Israel from Panama when a witness unexpectedly shed light on the Galilee murders, leading to a breakthrough in the case. Although three others already face charges for the triple murder, only with the new evidence did prosecutors gather enough information to indict Rosenstein.
According to charges brought late last year, Sheetrit and another Tiberius man, Yehuda Ohayon, also wanted Weitzman dead. The murder was a "preemptive strike" to forestall plans by Weitzman to kill Ohayon, who in turn had attempted to murder a friend of Weitzman, Avi Gilkarov. Another man, Guy Weberman, is said to have approached Sheetrit and Ohayon with Rosenstein's offer of 100,000 dollars for killing Weitzman.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, at 3:10 on September 23 2001, Weitzman left the Blue Bar, a Shaldag Beach nightspot, together with Ben Mergi and Masawi. The three walked to the parking lot and were getting into a car when an unknown man in a motorcycle helmet approached them and fired several shots at close range. Weitzman and Ben Mergi died at the scene. Masawi survived the attack but died soon after in hospital of his wounds. Prosecutors say that some two weeks after the murders a witness saw Weberman pass Sheetrit a bag containing the promised payment.
In separate charges brought in November 2009, Yoram Finian, a 43-year-old Tiberias man, was indicted for murdering Sheetrit two months after the Shaldag killings. Prosecutors say Finian was appointed getaway driver by Sheetrit - but was by chance accosted by a policeman while awaiting Sheetrit and Ben Mergi, who returned from the murder scene to find him gone. Sheetrit later agreed to pay Finian only NIS 20,000 for his part in the killings ? less than promised ? causing an argument which led to Finian shooting his former accomplice for times at close range.