First arrest made in murder of mob prince, cops say case still open

A gag order remains on all details of the case, beyond the fact that Levi is under arrest.

May 16, 2016 15:47
2 minute read.
Crime Tel Aviv

Scene of criminal shooting attack in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: DUDI PEK)

Barely a week after an underworld prince was gunned down in north Tel Aviv, a local Netanya man was arrested on suspicion of killing Shay Shirazi, the son of Netanya mob boss Rico Shirazi, as part of a personal feud between the two.

Hours after the murder last Saturday night, investigators began to hone in on Michael Levy, 29, a Netanya local who was known to have a personal feud with the younger Shirazi. Though in the days after the killing there was widespread belief that Shay was murdered as part of an underworld war between his father and his rivals, the arrest of Levy indicates police believe the killing may have been a small-scale feud between Shay and Levy, or people close to him.

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A police official said Sunday night that Levy is “connected to local criminal elements” in Netanya, but is not a member of any criminal organization.

A gag order remains on all details of the case, beyond the fact that Levi is under arrest.

At the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court on Monday, Levi’s attorney Erez Abuhav said his client denies any connection to the murder, and that “I would suggest we all wait patiently and give police time to finish the case”.

Though he was the son of one of Israel’s most well-known crime figures, Shay Shirazi was a rather well-liked underworld figure who was not known for waging any wars at the time being with underworld rivals or leaving bodies in the streets of central Israel. When he was shot dead last Saturday night, he was parked at a stop light on Moshe Sneh Street in north Tel Aviv in a Mazda 3, without a bodyguard.

His passenger, an older acquaintance who police said is not an underworld figure, was also shot, and lightly wounded.

Rico Shirazi has for years been a major player in the underworld in Netanya and beyond, and became a celebrity of sorts due to his flashy lifestyle, and larger than life persona he played up in his rare appearances before the media. He was also known in later years for his alliance with southern Israel mob kingpin Shalom Domrani and his blood feud with the Abutbul crime family from Netanya.

Shay’s murder is one of the more prominent underworld murders in recent years, taking the life of one of the more well-known “mob princes” in Israel – a generation of young heirs like Shay Shirazi, Dror Alperon, and Nissim Domrani, among others, who were born into underworld fame without working their way up from the street like their fathers.

The elder Shirazi, who in his younger days played for Maccabi Netanya FC, was sentenced in December 2015 to eight year in prison for money-laundering, fraud, and NIS 25 million in tax crimes. After he was told – in his cell in isolation at Rimonim Prison – that his only son had been murdered, Shirazi submitted a request to attend the funeral and Shiva, but was denied due to public safety concerns. The Israel Prison Service said in a statement last week that they would approve for him to attend the gravesite prayers on the 30th day after the murder.

A national police investigations branch official said Monday that at the moment police are treating Levi’s arrest as just an initial development in the case, and do not consider the investigation closed.

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