Niv Asraf, the IDF soldier who faked his own kidnapping.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Two men accused of faking a kidnapping, that sent thousands of police and soldiers scrambling through the southern West Bank and enraged the Israeli public, were indicted on Wednesday on charges of aggravated fraud and filing a false police report.
The indictment issued by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office accuses Niv Asraf and Eran Nagauker of plotting to fake Asraf’s disappearance, because he had recently broken up with his girlfriend and he believed that publication of his kidnapping would cause her to worry about him.
The indictment says the two drove toward Kiryat Arba near Hebron and selected a hiding place, where Asraf planned to wait during the search for him. He left his cellphone in his car to throw off attempts to track his whereabouts and Nagauker – then on active duty in the air force - took a tire off the car and replaced it with a spare, in order to create a back story that they had gotten a flat tire and Asraf had walked to a nearby Palestinian village to get help and had not returned.
Nagauker then called the police emergency line, when the indictment says he issued a false police report that his friend had gone missing.
The indictment describes how Nagauker’s call caused the army and police to deploy thousands of soldiers and police officers, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officers and search and rescue aircraft to find his friend.
They also set up a large number of checkpoints and began stopping and searching Palestinian motorists, a procedure that the indictment says disrupted the lives of a large number of Palestinians.
During the searches, which troops carried out in hostile villages, they came under attack by rock-throwers on a number of occasions, the indictment says.
The indictment states that the whole time he was hiding, Asraf could hear the emergency vehicles searching for him, but did not inform them that he was safe and sound.
Hours after the search began, Nagauker changed his story and the ruse began to unravel. Later that night Asraf was found and both were arrested.
The indictment also confirms a statement made by Asraf after his arrest, when he said that he disappeared because of gambling debts to underworld figures. The indictment states that in the months before the incident, Asraf had accumulated a large debt of tens of thousands of shekels from illegal gambling, and hoped that the people he owed money to would believe he had disappeared.
At their first court hearing in April, a prosecutor estimated that the search for Asraf cost the state hundreds of thousands of shekels, while other estimates put the sum in the millions. The story also led to widespread outrage against the two men by the Israeli public.