Underworld Killings Probe Leads to Arrest of Major Israeli Crime Boss

Nine suspects total detained in probe of organized crime ring hits tied to loan-sharking turf battles.

An archive photo of an Israel Police car.
David Bachar

A senior member of an organized crime ring was arrested on Tuesday as part of a police investigation into a series of underworld assassinations.

Eight other suspects were also arrested Tuesday. The names of all the suspects are under a gag order, as are other details of the case.

The senior detainee will be brought to court for a bail hearing today. The other eight had their bail hearings Tuesday, and the court approved keeping some behind bars until next Monday and the rest until next Wednesday.

The assassinations in question, which killed 14 people, were part of a battle between two criminal organizations for control of “gray-market” (nonbank) lending in the center of the country.

Some of the killings were also sparked by the defection of members of Yitzhak Abergil’s organization to that of his rival, Yossi Musli.

Aside from the unsolved murders – which include those of underworld figures Jordan Azoulay, Sharon Mizrahi, Yitzhak Geffen, Mor Algrabli, Rami Amira and Bar Cohen – some of those arrested on Tuesday are suspected of abetting the murder of Avi David in Bat Yam in 2011, a case for which other suspects are currently on trial.

The new suspects are also being investigated in connection with several attempted murders in 2012, along with one in 2015. One person has already been convicted in the 2015 case, in which police seized a booby-trapped car before the bomb could explode, but police believe other people may have been involved as well.

In addition to the murders and attempted murders, police are investigating the suspects’ involvement in many other crimes. These including throwing a grenade into a house in Rishon Letzion, stealing a gun from a soldier in Bat Yam, torching kiosks and extorting their owners in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market and stashing the illegal weapons that police discovered in a kindergarten in Tel Aviv in 2012. One person has already been convicted in the latter case, but police think others were involved.

Last week, seven members of Musli’s organization who are standing trial for murder were released from jail to house arrest due to new information that cast doubt on their guilt.

The seven were arrested based on the testimony of a state’s witness who linked them to three underworld murders in 2012: of Bar Cohen, Daniel Samara and Ehud Frankel. But recently, a different state’s witness fingered different people as responsible for those murders, leading to the almost-certain collapse of what police had considered their flagship organized crime case.