Youth who faked kidnapping says he owed large gambling debt, wanted to disappear

"It was not planned and he wanted to disappear for a number of days, and from here it rolled forward," Nir Asraf's attorney says.

Niv Asraf, the IDF soldier who faked his own kidnapping (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Niv Asraf, the IDF soldier who faked his own kidnapping
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
A man who faked his own kidnapping last week has told investigators he went missing because he owed money to dangerous criminals and needed to hide for a few days.
Thousands of soldiers and police scrambled across the West Bank looking for Niv Asraf.
According to Judea and Samaria District Police, Niv Asraf denied the story told by his accomplice, Eran Nagaukar, who said that Asraf and he staged the kidnapping because Asraf wanted to make his ex-girlfriend take him back. Nagaukar reported Asraf missing in the Hebron area on Thursday Asraf told police he had a gambling debt to underworld types that grew with interest as he was unable to pay and that he panicked and decided to disappear for a few days.
Asraf’s attorney, Moti Yosef, said his client told him that “he wanted to disappear for a number of days, and from here it rolled forward. He didn’t tell me about gambling, he told me a different version, but I cannot share it.”
In the meantime, the fake kidnapping is already exacting a cost on Nagaukar, a driver in the air force whose mandatory military service is scheduled to end in approximately two weeks. He had signed up for extended service and was likely seeking to continue on as a career soldier. Those hopes now look certain to be dashed, as the IDF will refuse to extend his service.
Military sources said that as long as the criminal investigation continues, no official steps will be taken.
But it is difficult to see any scenario in which Nagaukar will continue to serve in the IDF.
Though the public has been furious with Asraf and Nagaukar over the past few days, the fake kidnapping victim appears to have the support of his ex-girlfriend, at least for now.
In a conversation with a reporter from Ch. 2 on Sunday, the she said that she “continues to support him despite the mistake he made.”
She also said she doesn’t think that the faked kidnapping had anything to do with their breakup.
At the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Friday, both Asraf and Nagaukar were ordered kept in custody until Monday.
Some 3,000 soldiers and many police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) personnel took part in the search during the more than eight hours that Asraf was feared kidnapped, at a cost of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps as much as a million shekels.
Nagaukar had reported his friend missing at around 4 p.m., saying they had a flat tire outside Kiryat Arba and that Asraf went off to get tools to change it and never returned. After an exhaustive search, he was found around 12:30 on Friday morning in a nearby dry creek bed, with a sleeping bag and canned goods.
Police on Thursday night said that they would pursue criminal charges against both men.
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories issued a statement on Friday saying the fake kidnapping took a heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, including thousands who were held up at security checks across the West Bank, and many whose homes security forces raided looking for Asraf.
Asraf’s father, Shmuel, on Monday told Army Radio that he understands the public’s anger toward his son, but leveled criticism also at police.
“With a more strenuous investigation they would have discovered it sooner.
He [Niv Asraf] must not have estimated that it would get to such proportions.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.