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One of Israel’s most well-known organized crime figures, already serving a 13-year sentence for a series of other charges, is now suspected of being involved in the 2008 murder of a prominent defense attorney who was killed in a car bombing.
On Monday, Asi Abutbul, once the head of one of the country’s most powerful organized crime families, was brought before the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, where his remand was extended for nine days, as new evidence allegedly links him to the murder that emerged as part of Case 512, which saw the arrest of Abutbul and dozens of other suspects – including several organized crime heads – for a litany of crimes including murder, drug trafficking and money laundering. The police have recruited a number of state witnesses in the case, including senior associates of the crime bosses arrested.
Abutbul has long been a person of interest in the murder.
On the night of June 11, 2008, Yoram Haham, a 53-year-old father of four was driving on Yigal Alon Street near the Nokia stadium in Tel Aviv when a bomb exploded inside his SUV. Haham died at the scene and police believe the blast was detonated remotely, possibly by assailants who were following the attorney.
Haham had represented Abutbul in his organized crime trial, but was fired by the mob boss not long before his death.
Among other possible motives, police are examining the possibility that Abutbul arranged the hit because he owed Haham money, or because of rumors that the attorney was having an affair with the wife of an Abutbul family associate.
In addition to Abutbul, Haham represented a number of very wellknown and dangerous underworld figures including Yossi Hariri and Aryeh Alperon.
Early this month, Abutbul told guards at Sharon prison he planned to go on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, including the almost total isolation he has bee in for much of his incarceration.
A week later, he was treated by prison medical personnel after he sliced himself with a razor in his cell.
The Abutbul family was one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Israel a little over a decade ago, though their prominence began to fade after patriarch Felix – Asi’s father – was murdered outside a casino he ran in Prague in 2002.
The suspects in the 512 case include some police believe were involved in that murder.
The family suffered another setback in 2011 when Asi’s brother Francois Abutbul was murdered and a year ago by the suicide of Felix’s brother Charlie at his Netanya apartment.