Police Crack Case of Grenades Thrown at T.A. Subaru Dealer

Thanks to a prison informant, police have cracked the case of the three grenades hurled at a Subaru dealer in Tel Aviv over the past few months, they announced yesterday.

Six alleged members of the Ramat Amidar gang, which is purportedly headed by the main suspect in the case, Ben Cohen, will be indicted in Tel Aviv this morning. Police say the gang was trying to pressure the brother of one of the owners of the Subaru import agency, who owes $1.5 million to loan sharks.

According to the police, two of the suspects, Shaul Buchnik, 27, and Moshe Elbaz, 25, threw a fragmentation grenade at the Subaru agency on Hamasger Street in Tel Aviv late last year. A week later, they threw a percussion grenade at the same premises.

The Central Unit of the Tel Aviv Police arrested the pair three weeks after the incidents. A few days later, they also arrested a soldier in an elite reconnaissance unit of the Paratroops on suspicion of selling the grenades to Elbaz and Buchnik. However, the soldier was released shortly thereafter for lack of evidence.

The investigation concluded that the grenades were thrown because Assaf Barazani, the brother of Subaru importer Amnon Barazani, had borrowed $1.5 million on the "gray" (nonbank) market a few months earlier. Barazani repaid part of the money by check, but some of his checks bounced. The loan sharks then allegedly asked Ben Cohen to intervene, and Cohen bought up the loans. Police say they believe the grenades were thrown to intimidate the debtor's brother into repaying the loans.

Though police had suspected early on that Cohen was involved, they were initially unable to prove it - something that has also happened in other cases allegedly involving Cohen.

The break in the case came at the beginning of last week, when one of the suspects in the case fell for an old trick: He confided in a criminal who was a police informant planted in the suspect's cell. According to the police, the suspect told the informant that another suspect in the case had "told me to come with him, that it was a job Ben [Cohen] had brought in."

Based on the informant's testimony, police arrested Cohen, who has denied any connection to the incidents.

During the investigation, police said, detectives discovered that some of the suspects were also involved in throwing grenades at the Tiberias home of a person who had been mistakenly identified as owing money to a loan shark.