For First Time, China Agrees to Extradite Suspect to Israel

Extradition of crime boss Yaniv Zaguri is considered a breakthrough in Israeli-Chinese relations

Yaniv Zaguri entering a Be'er Sheva courtroom in 2009
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

For the first time ever, China has agreed to extradite a wanted criminal to Israel.

Yaniv Zaguri, who is the reputed head of an organized crime ring in southern Israel, has been under arrest in China for the past three weeks. His extradition is considered a breakthrough in Israeli-Chinese relations because the two countries have no extradition treaty. As a result, technically Zaguri is being deported rather than extradited. Nevertheless, China is deporting him at the request of Israeli law enforcement agencies.

Zaguri, who is high on the wanted list of the Negev district police, went to China several months ago after serving his last jail sentence in Israel. According to an Israeli law enforcement official, he was arrested in China due to problems with his visa, apparently stemming from the fact that he lied about his criminal record.

China also arrested two other Israelis who are thought to be members of Zaguri’s gang, and they too will be deported to Israel. Sources close to Zaguri said all three are expected to be sent back to Israel in the next few days.

Zaguri’s gang is allegedly involved mainly in loan-sharking and illegal gambling. In 2009, he was sentenced to seven years in prison after a member of his organization turned state’s evidence and testified against him. After his release last year, Zaguri and his family went to live in the Far East.

This past June, the police informant, Tal Korkus, was murdered in a car bombing in Ashkelon. His wife, Dvora, was murdered in front of her children at a swimming pool in Be’er Sheva 15 months earlier.

Zaguri’s lawyer, Ori Ben-Nathan, said: “We’ve been hearing for the last two days that he’s on his way to Israel, but at this stage, we don’t know for sure what his situation is.”