Eliezer Vigdarovich, a well-connected and well-known figure in the Gur Hasidic community, is facing an array of serious criminal charges in an affair that some in the district attorney’s office describe as “straight out of a Hollywood script.”
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The amended indictment filed on Monday in Jerusalem District Court alleges that for the last few years, Vigdarovich has blackmailed by means of threats, engaged in aggravated assault, fabricated evidence, supplied drugs, kidnapped for the purpose of imprisonment and other serious crimes. The schemes were orchestrated with the aim of incriminating an innocent couple in order to keep the woman away from her nine children (a goal that has so far been accomplished).
In December 2015, an Israeli couple was arrested at the airport in Boryspil, Ukraine, as they prepared to board a flight home, after a commercial quantity of marijuana, nearly 700 grams, was discovered in their luggage. The man, P., and the woman, H., were arrested and charged with drug possession and attempted drug smuggling. Their trial is still ongoing in Ukraine. Immediately after their arrest, suspicions were raised in the Gur community that they had been set up. An indictment was brought against Vigdarovich on Tuesday. He is alleged to have planted the drugs on the couple in order to trap them outside of Israel and prevent the woman from having contact with her children.
Erez Padan, an assistant Jerusalem district attorney, tweeted: “One of the most difficult and convoluted cases we have dealt with this year culminated in an indictment today. Like a Hollywood script.”
H., a mother of nine, divorced her husband in September 2015. Even after the divorce proceedings were concluded, she and her husband continued to fight in the rabbinical court over custody for some of their nine children. Various people from the Gur community who also wished to sever her connection to the children also became involved. Following the divorce, H., expressed her desire to marry P., a divorcé who had provided marriage counseling to her and her ex-husband while they were still married.
For a long time, members of the Gur community meddled in the family conflict. According to the indictment, they first pressured H. Then Vigdarovich himself pressured P. to leave H., even paying people to beat him up (one of the two attackers was also named in the charge sheet). Vigdarovich was allegedly involved in later attempts to get P. and H. to marry, with the thought that it would then be easier to separate her from her children.
In one instance, Vigdarovich flew P. to Switzerland. Two thugs hired by Vigdarovich took him to an apartment, beat him, handcuffed him and threatened to kill him using a fake gun. Vigdarovich came to the apartment and issued P. a series of demands, including ordering him to make sure that H. surrenders custody of her children. At P.’s request, H. flew to Italy meet him and Vigdarovich in order to discuss the conditions.
After the couple refused his proposal that they remain abroad for a year, Vigdarovich was still able to convince P. to look into a job offer in Uman, Ukraine. The couple flew there, but when Vigdarovich learned that the job wasn’t going to pan out and they were planning to return, he came up with the plan to plant drugs in their luggage.
“The plot was to plant the drugs so that they would easily discovered during the expected security check at the Boryspil Airport near Kiev, before their return flight to Israel in order to incriminate them and get them arrested for a long period of time, so they would be unable to return to Israel for many years,” says the indictment. The plot was carried out with the aid of locals whose identities are unknown to the prosecutors, Chen Bar Shalom and Aviad Dwek.
Vigdarovich was arrested last September. The indictment states that he gave various false statements under questioning. At one point he signed a state’s witness agreement, promising to obtain recordings and evidence against the people who placed the drugs in H. and P.'s luggage and lead the police to them. In wake of that agreement, he was released to house arrest, which he took advantage of to “mislead the police detectives and to obstruct the investigation with the intent of disrupting the investigation, obscuring evidence and avoid having to go to trial for his role in the plot to plant drugs on the couple and get them imprisoned.”