A bomb-maker known as “the engineer of the underworld” was given a lenient sentence on Tuesday as part of a plea bargain that drew the scorn of police and the presiding judge. The threeyear sentence came despite the fact that he’s a repeat offender and was caught on video picking up the bomb and by detectives staking out the scene.
On Tuesday, 39-year-old Adi Machlouf was sentenced, along with co-defendant Avraham Zehavi, more than nine months after they were arrested in a bust that received widespread media coverage in Israel.
Zehavi was sentenced to one-year in prison after police duped him into picking up a fake bomb from an undercover cop, and a third suspect, Shai Waro, has yet to be sentenced.
In his statement to the court on Tuesday, presiding Judge Eliyahu Beitan spoke at length on the threat posed by the bombs deployed by the Israeli underworld, saying that, “In recent years, as part of an general escalation in underworld violence and the high availability of weapons and explosives, the use of bombs by criminals has become popular and has led to people being hurt – both those who were the targets of the attacks and innocents.”
Beitan said that in light of that situation and the fact that Machlouf was a repeat offender, “a threeyear sentence against him in these circumstances is very lenient” and “is close to being enough to justify negating the plea bargain. In the end, I have decided not to dismiss the deal, but I do so with a heavy heart.”
The original indictment against Machlouf and his co-defendants included testimony from more than 40 witnesses, including the chief of the Southern District of the police, Asst.- Ch. Yoram Halevy who, on Tuesday, instructed his head of intelligence Cdr. Yossi Turgeman to meet with prosecutors to determine how the plea bargain was formulated.
He also expressed his anger at the decision, saying: “The policy of the police, and the southern district in particular, is to reach the optimum conditions for stopping and preventing criminal terrorism.”
Halevy said he wants steps to be taken so such deals “don’t become routine.”
In addition, to testimony from Halevy, a number of detectives, and wiretap recordings, the police case also included a close-up video of Machlouf taken the day of his arrest showing him picking the bomb up from its hiding place in a public park in Ashkelon, at which point he was tackled by police.
Prosecutors said in court on Tuesday the decision to pursue the plea bargain regardless of the evidence was because the original indictment did not have enough evidence and that the wiretap recordings “were open to interpretation.”
They also said the defendants confessed to the crimes, saving the court system a significant amount of time, and that all three are fathers with children at home and have been in jail for seven months.
Machlouf’s two-year-old son was with him and his wife when he was arrested on December 15, 2014. He had taken them with him to the park to pick up the bomb, which he planned to place in his car along with his family members and drive off, but was arrested before he could do so.
The previous night, Machlouf had planted the bomb at the park, ahead of a drop off to his clients, who police say planned to use it to target criminal rivals in the city. According to the indictment, the bomb was made up of four explosive bricks totaling a kilo of explosives fastened together and rigged with an electric, long-range detonator.
The explosives – made of RDX – were manufactured by “Rafael,” the Israeli arms manufacture, and are used for demolition and other purposes by the IDF. They were most likely stolen from an IDF arms depot or base.
The next morning, after walking around in the park with his wife and son, Machlouf went to his car to grab some gloves and, when he returned to where he’d buried the bomb the night before, he acted as if he was urinating. When he thought the coast was clear, hw dug up the bomb he was arrested.
Later that same day with Machlouf in custody, police set up a fake deal with Zehavi, sending him a text from Machlouf’s phone telling him that a girlfriend would drop off the bomb. The “girlfriend,” an undercover cop, went to the spot with a decoy bomb, which Waro went to pick up, and he was arrested. Zehavi, for his part, showed up at another pickup spot later that day, with his son in his car, and also was arrested.
At the time of his arrest, police described Machlouf as a freelance bomb maker bereft of any underworld loyalties who sells his explosives to the highest bidder.
Police believe the bomb was meant to be sold to associates of the Lavi brothers crime family from Rehovot, which is tied to Shalom Domrani’s Ashkelon-based organization, which wars with Ashkelon area rival Benny Shlomo’s crew and his allies from the “Georgian Gang” based in Ashdod.