(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
For nearly a year-and-ahalf a former top lieutenant of the Musli crime family has been spilling his guts to police investigators on one of the country’s top criminal organizations, believed to be responsible for a string of murders across central Israel in recent years.
The identity of the state’s witness is a closely guarded secret and can’t be published.
The informant’s testimony was finally made public on Monday, when 20 members of the Musli organization and affiliates were arrested on a series of charges; such as murder, attempted murder and conspiracy, including Yossi Musli, the boss; and his father, Nissim, the patriarch of the family.
The charges mainly revolve around the suspects’ alleged role in a gang war with the Muslis’ rivals in the Center – mainly criminals affiliated with the Abergil organization – a war that has seen more than two dozen murders in the past few years.
In particular, the crimes include the January 2012 Bat Yam murder of Bar Cohen and the murders in the following month of Ohad Franco and Daniel Samara, found shot to death sitting in a car in Rishon Lezion. The case involves attempted hits on Moti Hassin, who for the past few years has been the acting head of the Abergil organization and one of the Israel Police’s main targets, not to mention the Musli organization and their allies.
The suspects were taken to hearings at the Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion courts, and received remand extensions of between three and 10 days.
Yossi’s remand was extended by the full 15 days police requested, which his attorney, Moti Katz, did not contest as Musli is already locked up in Rimonim Prison, where he has spent several years for a series of organized and violent crime charges, including attempted murders.
Nissim, also known as “Melmilian,” has reputedly spent many years as the king of the underground gambling rackets in the Hatikva neighborhood of south Tel Aviv, the family’s stronghold.
Eli Musli, Yossi’s older brother, allegedly runs the casinos that the family supposedly operates in Romania and South Africa, a cash cow that is believed to drive the organization back in Israel. Eli is not among those arrested.
Though the identity of the state’s witness cannot be printed, it has been widely-known in the underworld and among crime and police reporters for well over a year. It was even said in court a couple of times by Katz in front of several defendants from the Musli crew and a gallery of supporters.
Katz said Monday that his client has no connection to the state’s witness.
“I have a feeling that this time as well it will turn out that this is much ado about nothing,” he said, casting doubt on the reliability of the star witness.
The gang war between the Musli family and their rivals began in earnest in 2011, when Yitzhak Abergil, the titular head of the crime family was extradited to the US with his brother Meir to face drug charges. A power struggle ensued as the Musli organization smelled blood in the water and started going after the weakened Abergil gang. They targeted the group’s “change stores” and gambling and loan sharking interests in the Rishon, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv regions, as well as in the Sharon area, where they fought with Abergil affiliates. The Abergil organization itself also went through a reckoning, as associates jumped ship or set up their own crews as the wider crime family weakened.
Along the way, the Musli family and the criminals affiliated with the Abergils and their associates left over two dozen bodies lying on the streets of central Israel.