Drive-by Murder of Mob Heir Leaves Israeli Police Fearing New War Among Families

The police are concerned that Rico Shirazi’s group will try to avenge his son’s killing, if only to prove that he is still a player and his control of the field hasn’t weakened.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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The scene of a drive-by shooting in Tel Aviv, May 7, 2016.
The scene of a drive-by shooting in Tel Aviv, May 7, 2016.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Police fear that Saturday’s slaying of the presumed heir to one of the country’s biggest crime groups could trigger a new war among rival families.

Shai Shirazi, 32, was murdered in a drive-by shooting in north Tel Aviv. He was identified both by the police and local criminal elements as the likely heir to his father, crime boss Rico Shirazi.

Shai Shirazi was described as a charismatic man who stood out among the second generation of Israeli crime family “princes.”

Slain Israeli crime family member Shai Shirazi in a 2009 court appearance.Credit: Nir Kedar

The police are concerned that Rico Shirazi’s group will try to avenge his son’s killing, if only to prove that he is still a player and his control of the field hasn’t weakened.

When Shai Shirazi was only 13, his father was convicted of being an accomplice to the murder of a Netanya criminal, Moshe David, and was jailed for five years. He was released in 2001, at about the same time the huge Trade Bank embezzlement affair was revealed. Police suspect a substantial amount of the money in that crime went to Shirazi, but he was never formally charged.

That same year, Shai Shirazi got an expensive BMW as an 18th birthday present from his father. A few days after receiving it, he took part in an illegal race and caused an accident that killed two of his close friends, Sharon Meshiv and Elad Rosenblum, both also 18.

Rico Shirazi in court in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2015.Credit: David Bachar

Shirazi was convicted of causing death by negligence and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in 2003. According to police sources, when the son went to jail, the father understood that he was destined to follow in his footsteps and the two began to plan for when the younger man would inherit his father’s empire.

In April 2009, Shai Shirazi was involved in a violent and deadly incident. As part of the war between rival crime families, he came to a club in Netanya to demand protection money from the owners. Arthur Matayev, one of the owners, refused and called for people to back him up. A brawl ensued, during which Shirazi and his associates stabbed Matayev and his people, beat them with clubs, and kicked and punched them. Matayev died of stab wounds to his head, arms and neck. As part of a plea bargain, Shirazi was convicted of aiding a murder and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Shirazi’s death is a blow to the family’s organization. The elder Shirazi is currently in jail after receiving an eight-year sentence last December for tax evasion and money laundering. He was arrested last August during the major organized crime investigation that was dubbed Case 512.

The Shirazi family has been party to many disputes with other organized crime families, particularly the Abutbul family. In recent years, the younger Shirazi has been acting more like a businessman, focusing on gray market loans. As part of this business, police say, he had a number of disputes with small criminal gangs trying to build themselves up after Case 512 dealt a serious blow to some of the larger organizations. That case led to serious indictments against many senior organized crime figures, including brothers Yitzhak and Meir Abergil.

Rico Shirazi was told about his son’s murder in his prison cell on Sunday. His request to attend the funeral was rejected, with the Israel Prison Service saying security would have been too burdensome. He is expected to be allowed to visit his son’s grave at a later date.

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