Niv Asraf, the Beersheba man accused of staging his own kidnapping last week.
(photo credit: MEIR EVEN HAIM)
The man accused of faking his own kidnapping in the West Bank last week said he had no choice but to disappear because he was threatened by criminals to whom he owed money, and thought he had nowhere else to turn.
Speaking to reporters outside his home in Beersheba after he was released from jail on Monday, Niv Asraf, 22, said that for three or four weeks he’d tried to get help from police after he received threatening phone calls from criminals chasing down his gambling debt. He said he feared they would come after him or his family, so he decided to disappear.
“I didn’t think about anything at that moment. I didn’t know that it would become such a big deal, and if I’d known, then it wouldn’t have happened. We did not plan a kidnapping or for people to go searching for us in Hebron,” Asraf said.
He said he thought that police would think something had happened to him and finally begin taking his complaints seriously.
The Negev subdistrict said Monday that Asraf’s claim that he had contacted police on several occasions with the complaint of being threatened and that he received no assistance were “claims with no factual basis.”
They added that there is no record of a complaint by Asraf to Beersheba police, and that if there had been, they would have handled it. They also said that they would not comment on his attorney’s claim that police tried to force him to serve as a police informant, saying that intelligence and confidentiality issues would preclude them from commenting on the matter.
A police source has confirmed that Asraf did contact a police officer and talked about his problems, but that no official complaint was ever issued.
Asraf said that he remembered the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens near Kiryat Arba in June, but that nonetheless he didn’t think the false kidnapping report would result in a massive search.
“I would have rather gone to the criminals who were threatening [me], if I’d known that soldiers were going to risk their lives over this,” he said Asraf and his accomplice Eran Nagauker were released by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday days after Asraf was found with a sleeping bag and provisions in a dry creek bed outside Kiryat Arba. Hours earlier Nagauker had reported him missing, telling police that they had gotten a flat tire and that Asraf went off to look for tools and never returned.
Police and the IDF immediately began treating the case as a possible kidnapping.
The presiding judge dismissed a police request that both men be released to house arrest, and set both of them free after they posted bail.
Judea and Samaria District police said Monday they expect that within a week prosecutors will indict both men on charges including fabricating evidence, disturbing the peace, and interfering with police work, among other potential charges.
Since the duo’s story unraveled Thursday night, there have been two competing narratives about what drove the two to fabricate the kidnapping.
Nagaukar told investigators his friend faked the kidnapping in a bid to win back his ex, who he thought would be concerned for his safety and then impressed when he “escaped his captors” and returned. Asraf, according to police, said that he fled because he ran up a gambling debt to some dangerous men in the Beersheba area, and desperate and unable to get help from police, he decided to lay low for a few days.
Already it appears that the stunt may have cost Nagauker a potential career with the air force, where he serves as a driver. Following his arrest, it is very likely that his request to sign on as a career officer will be denied.
Some 3,000 soldiers and an untold number of police and Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] personnel took part in the search during the more than eight hours that Asraf was feared missing, a prosecutor said in court during their first hearing on Friday. The search is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of shekels, while some estimate the costs running into the millions.