The Abdel-Kader clan wasn’t supposed to become an organized crime family. The patriarch of the family, Mabruk, then a high school teacher in Ramle, was living a middle class life in Taiba when one morning over two decades ago, a member of the clan ran over and killed a member of the Umm al- Fahm-based al-Hariri clan in a traffic accident.
That was the day everything changed.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, the head of the Central District branch of the YAMAR investigative unit, Yigal Ben-Shalom, said that a simple traffic accident launched a blood feud between the two clans that has now stretched over two generations and left more than 50 dead bodies on the streets of the “Triangle” region of the country.
“It was the type of thing that happens every day in Israel, but in this case it started a world war,” Ben-Shalom said.
The senior detective spoke to the Post the day before the State Prosecutor’s Office was scheduled to present indictments against 14 members of the Abdel-Kader clan arrested in a predawn raid on December 3 involving dozens of YASSAM and Border Police officers.
The 14 suspects will face a battery of organized crime charges, including extortion, arms and drug dealing, and money laundering, among others.
Ben-Shalom said that as the bodies started to stack up in the blood feud, the Abdel- Kader family “started to build a name for itself, through doing some not nice things.”
In time, the clan numbering only several dozen people became a cohesive, violent and feared organization that exercised almost complete control over Taiba. Ben- Shalom said the family has for an entire generation spread a reign of terror over Taiba, running the city of some 40,000 people as their private fiefdom, with the city hall in their pocket as well.
YAMAR investigators have been building a case against the family since 2005, aided by officers from the tax authority who targeted the source of the family’s money.
Investigators noticed over the past year that the family was making inroads into the Tel Aviv area and spreading their influence far outside of the Triangle, raising fears that they could be jockeying for position as a nationwide organization.
During the past year, police noticed that the family’s headquarters in Taiba, a fortresslike compound of over 10 buildings, had become a destination for gangsters from the Jewish organized crime families, who began working with the Abdel-Kader clan.
A veteran police investigator, Ben-Shalom seemed genuinely impressed when describing the family’s Taiba compound. He said the base of operations was surrounded by earthen roadblocks set up by the gang, and that the entire area was circled by surveillance cameras which allowed the family to see the approach of police or rival gangsters long ahead of time, giving them time to flee or arm themselves for battle.
They also operated a network of lookouts and informants and four separate “war rooms” where associates would sit around a bank of flatscreen TVs observing the roads approaching the compound.
Beyond extortion and drugs and arms running, the family is also suspected of having its imprint on the operations of the local municipality, and among the names to be indicted on Monday is a Taiba lawyer who Ben-David said wrote up contracts for the crime family, brokering loan sharking agreements for the family. The agreements would typically include exorbitant interest rates, and allowed the family to take over property, cars and land owned by Taiba families who made the mistake of taking a loan from them.
Another man set to be indicted is a former engineer from the municipality, who police said the family used to give them a heads up on business permits and all types of other municipal deals from which they could make money.
“They didn’t need to go to storefronts with a bat and start beating people. They knew about everything going on in the city ahead of time and their name was enough to get people to do what they wanted,” Ben-Shalom said.
Their family and municipality connections also allowed the gang to get a tender for a family-owned business to run waste collection for Taiba, earning them millions of dollars annually.
Central District head Maj. General Bentzi Sau said the family has “taken control of Taiba and launched a reign of terror against its citizens,” and that putting a stop to their efforts has been a major focus of his district’s work over the past year.
Sau also expressed his hope that successful prosecution of the family “will help restore some of the faith in the police among Taiba residents,” saying the Arab sector has tended to view police with suspicion and little confidence, and that they are interested in stopping the crime plaguing their specific communities.
When asked if another crime family will just take the place of the Abdel-Kader clan should they all get convicted, Sau said “in crime, there is never a vacuum left in the field. Someone else will step in and try to fill this void and we know this and are already singling out those who we think will try to exploit this case.”
The enthusiasm of investigators and the media reports surrounding the case have done little to impress attorney Uri Bar-Oz, who is representing Mabruk Abdel-Kader.
“They’ve been in jail 50 days since their arrest and only now they’ve managed to indict them. This should tell you how weak the case is and the fact that they don’t have evidence,” he told the Post by phone on Sunday.
Bar-Oz described his client as “an intellectual, a businessman who ran a hardware store for years and was a beloved teacher of hundreds of students over the years. This man has never for one day worked in extortion or crime, it’s all nonsense!” The attorney mentioned Mabruk’s sons who studied at Oxford and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, as well as a daughter who is a professor, painting the alleged crime family as a model family of the Triangle.
“What happens after all this is said and done, after they’ve ruined the good name of a great family like this?” Bar-Oz asked, before signing off to help prepare his client for a major organized crime trial.