(photo credit: INIMAGE)
A Tel Aviv district judge on Monday dealt a major blow to one of the most well known underworld figures in Israel, sentencing Netanya mob boss Aryeh “Rico” Shirazi to eight years in prison for money-laundering, fraud, threats, and tax crimes involving some NIS 25 million.
Shirazi’s attorney, Shlomo Ben-Aryeh said “this was an unprecedented penalty that I believe is not in keeping with the crimes they contend he committed,” and that he intends to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the financial crimes, Shirazi was sentenced for making threats against a former associate – a state witness who helped build the case against him.
Judge Oded Mudrick described in his ruling how Shirazi’s financial crimes took “a severe social toll,” and said they were carried out through “exploiting his [Shirazi’s] reputation as a dangerous man whose orders you follow in order to avoid being severely hurt by him.”
Mudrick said Shirazi was the boss in charge of a conspiracy to make money through paying out high-interest loans, using a series of legitimate businesses to launder the money.
Mudrick also mentioned in his ruling that Shirazi could be heard on wiretaps making threats against the state witness, including that he would find him “wherever he ran in the world, even if he adopted a new identity, and that his hands were like the hands of God.”
The sentencing follows an indictment issued against Shirazi in July, as part of the wider “Case 512,” which has seen a series of top Israeli underworld figures indicted on serious crimes, including murder and drug trafficking stretching back more than a decade.
The July indictment alleged that along with associate Asaf Yariv, Shirazi paid a hit man $50,000 in 2003 to murder Guy Yehezkel, an associate of Shirazi’s arch rival, Netanya mob boss Asi Abutbul. Both men were also indicted in July for plotting to murder Abutbul at the Prague casino he ran. In the incident in question, on August 1, 2004, a man on a motorcycle threw a hand grenade at Abutbul as he entered an armored car outside the casino, but Abutbul was not harmed.
The attempt on Abutbul’s life came just two years after his father, Felix Abutbul, was gunned down outside the same casino.
Shirazi, who as a young man played soccer for Maccabi Netanya, has for years been one of the most well known underworld figures in Israel. He has repeatedly made headlines due to feuds with other Netanya crime families, in particular the Abutbuls.