Negev Mob Boss Indicted for Murder, Drug Dealing

Charges against Hagai Zaguri also include extortion, loan-sharking and operation of an illegal casino.

Be'er Sheva District Court Sunday indicted Hagai Zaguri - who police say is head of a large criminal organization in the Negev - on charges ranging from murder, to drug dealing, extortion, loan-sharking and operation of an illegal casino.

Zaguri was indicted along with seven other members of a crime syndicate that police believe was responsible for the murder of former Israeli soccer star Eli Uzan last November.

In addition, police say Zaguri operated an illicit casino aboard the "Magic 1" cruise ship, a privately owned vessel which docks at the Ashdod port.

Zaguri's ties with figures in the sports world also include the chairman of the Maccabi Be'er Sheva soccer team, Moti Abekasis: According to police, Zaguri offered him loans at high interest.

The indictment filed by prosecutors lists 219 witnesses who could be called to the stand. Among the most prominent figures on it are Yaniv Bublil, apparently the key money man in the Zaguri organization; singer Eyal Golan; entertainer Nancy Brandes; and television host Yaron Ilan.

Police say the investigation of Zaguri lasted seven months, and cost close to NIS 1 million. The probe produced a 40-page indictment that details alleged crimes committed by him and the person considered to be his right-hand man, Rami Ezran.

Casino stake

Among other things, investigators discovered records of financial transactions involving Zaguri's syndicate, which ostensibly reveal money-laundering operations.

Police say Zaguri and Ezran each owned a 10-percent stake in the casino, which reaped hundreds of thousands of shekels in profits on a monthly basis.

According to the indictment, both men earned $300,000 in the period between May 2008 and January 2009.

"This is an astronomical sum which really pushed the organization forward," a police source familiar with the details of the investigation told Haaretz. "This money was used by members of the organization, among other things, to purchase weapons."

Investigators say Zaguri and his henchmen would board the "Magic 1" on all of its cruises. Under the guise of acting as "casino supervisors," police say members of the organization would extend a line of credit to celebrity performers who participated in shows on the ship in order to subsequently charge them interest on their debts.

Police suspect that Zaguri's associates provided Golan, Brandes and Ilan with tens of thousands of shekels in gambling credit. Investigators stressed that the three were questioned for purposes of gathering evidence in the case and are not suspected of any crime.