Slated Abergil extraditions cap lengthy police effort

Alleged mob bosses and three associates facing murder and other charges to be flown to US in coming days.

By OREN KESSLER
January 11, 2011 04:31
3 minute read.
Slated Abergil extraditions cap lengthy police effort

Yitzhak and Meir Abergil 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

Reputed mob bosses Yitzhak and Meir Abergil and three associates will be flown to the United States over the next few days, the Israel Police confirmed Monday morning, spelling the end of a prolonged effort to extradite the five on a string of charges involving murder, money laundering, blackmail and drugs.

Last month, the Supreme Court found no reason to overturn a 2009 Jerusalem District Court decision to extradite the suspects, and ordered that they be transferred to US custody within 60 days. On Monday, the police issued a short statement indicating that the national fraud squad had notified the Abergil brothers and the other suspects – Sasson Barashi, Moshe Malul and Yisrael Ozifa – of the decision. The statement said that “no further details” would be given as to the exact timing or other circumstances of the transfer.

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Spokespeople for the police and the Justice Ministry declined requests from The Jerusalem Post for comment.

Along with a brother, the Abergils are believed to head one of the country’s most powerful crime syndicates.

Monday’s extradition announcement would seem to indicate that a powerful blow has been dealt to Israeli organized crime.

Following a US request for their extradition, Yitzhak and Meir Abergil were arrested in August 2008 in a police operation assisted by the US Justice Department. The brothers were initially nabbed on suspicion of blackmailing and extorting several Beersheba businessmen, but shortly after were charged by a California federal court with a 32- count rap sheet including murder and international drug trafficking. US officials filed the extradition request in October of that year.

US prosecutors have described Yitzhak Abergil as one of the major importers of narcotics into the US.

Israeli authorities plan to transport the suspects to Los Angeles on an El Al flight secured by the Israel Police, Prisons Service officials and US marshals. A police source described the suspects as “key players” in the Israeli underworld, and said that US officials intended to take no chances regarding flight security.

American authorities have promised their Israeli counterparts that even if found guilty of murder, the five suspects would not be given the death penalty. Under the terms of the extradition agreement between Washington and Jerusalem, even if found guilty by a US court, the suspects would likely serve their sentence in an Israeli prison.

If convicted, they could face life behind bars.

Among other offenses, the Abergil brothers are alleged to have worked with Malul to arrange the murder of Sami Atias, an Israeli drug trafficker operating in Los Angeles.

Malul is suspected of smuggling Ecstasy pills into the US, and then seeking Yitzhak Abergil’s permission to kill Atias for making off with a large portion of the narcotics.

The Abergils are also suspected of extorting businessmen Hai and Asi Vaknin in a money-laundering plot involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in embezzled bank money.

The suspects have consistently denied all charges.

Attorneys for the Abergils, Yoram Sheftel and Avigdor Feldman, said this week that they believe US authorities have insufficient evidence to convict their clients.

The extradition of Israeli citizens is rare, all the more so in cases linked to organized crime.

In 2004, Ze’ev Rosenstein, a rival of the Abergil family, was charged with Ecstasy trafficking in a joint investigation conducted by the Justice Ministry and the US Justice Department. In a landmark case two years later, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered Rosenstein extradited to the US for trial. The mob leader was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was allowed to serve his sentence in Israel.


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