Police informer leads to arrest of 32

State witness helps uncover arson and grenade attacks, 3 homicides.

January 28, 2010 13:17
2 minute read.
Police informer leads to arrest of 32

arrest generic 248 88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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A police informer from the criminal underworld has led to the arrests of 32 suspected gangsters belonging to at least three crime organizations in the South and Center, police revealed on Thursday, following the lifting of a media gag order.

The informer, who has turned state's witness, helped uncover at least 3 murders - including the homicide of a former soccer player – eight attempted murders, and dozens of arson attacks, grenade attacks, extortion attempts, and arms and drug trafficking, allegedly carried out over the past two years, according to Dep.-Cmdr. Yossef Cohen, head of the Negev Police's Central Unit.

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"The state's witness has risked his life," Cohen said during a press conference held at a Beersheba police station on Thursday.

All of the alleged offenses took place among criminals, Cohen told The Jerusalem Post.

"The South will be quieter after this," he added. The murders were all carried out using firearms, Cohen said. The murder victims have been named as Nati Ohion, Moshe Zitun, and Eli Uzan, a former Hapoel Beersheba soccer player.

Leading the list of suspects is ex-convict Hagai Zagori, considered by police to be "Beersheba's godfather." Zagori completed a prison sentence in 2008 for attempting to bribe Hapoel Beersheba players and match fixing. Since his release, a number of his rivals have been shot dead.

Zagori is suspected of murder and attempted murder, Cohen said.  "The Zagori family is heavily involved in crime in the area," he added. Zagori's brother, Yaniv, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for a variety of severe crimes.

Other suspects under arrest include Zachariya Edri, of Beersheba, considered by police to be Zagori's deputy. Dadi Ben Haim, Sharon Ben Haim and Victor Atiya are also among the detainees.

The suspects have all denied the suspicions against them.

"Not all of the offenses we detailed are attributed to all suspects. Every suspect will have his own case to answer, and indictments will be served after the evidence is assembled and sorted," Cohen said at the press briefing.

Dozens of detectives from the police's southern district and the National Serious and International Crimes Unit raided the homes of suspects on Tuesday morning, carrying out arrests, searches, and seizing cash, vehicles and other assets. The arrests mark the end of a two-year-long undercover investigation.

Cohen said the three criminal organizations operating in the South and Center targeted in the arrests were not engaged in wars against one another, nor were they linked by alliances. "Each group looked out for its own interests," he said.

Despite acknowledging the existence of the crime syndicates, police are still unsure whether they have amassed sufficient evidence to charge the suspects with belonging to a criminal organization.

Police are describing the investigation as one of the most complex ever conducted, adding that the criminal activities crossed police district boundaries and required high-level police oversight and cooperation.

"We are waging a determined struggle against crime organizations... this is not a slogan, it has been seen in our action over the past year, in which the number of arrests have grown significantly, and cases have been pursued until the offenders were brought to justice," said Southern Police Commander Yochanan Danino during a briefing of police commanders before Tuesday's raids.

"We will continue to fight crime on all levels from street crime to severe offenses using all available means, in order to safeguard the security southern residents," Danino added.

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