Alleged Israeli mobster Ze'ev Rosenstein is close to signing a plea bargain with US authorities that would allow him to serve his prison time in Israel, police officials said over the weekend.
In addition to admitting that he ordered hits on two members of the Alperon crime family, Rosenstein was also expected to plead guilty to US charges of drug trafficking, according to sources familiar with the proceedings.
In exchange, Rosenstein will be allowed to serve a 12-year prison sentence in Israel.
It seemed as if the law had finally caught up with the suspected crime boss when he was extradited to the US in March on charges that he had smuggled 1.45 million MDMA (Ecstasy) pills through Europe into the US and Australia.
At the time, US Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said that Rosenstein led "a sophisticated drug trafficking network whose operations spanned four continents and involved the shipment of well over one million Ecstasy pills to the United States."
The charges were the result of a July 2001 seizure of 700,000 Ecstasy pills in Miami after one of Rosenstein's alleged underlings sold a sample of the drugs to an undercover police agent.
At a court hearing in May, Rosenstein denied the allegations against him.
According to reports in the Israeli media, the Justice Ministry began to doubt that US prosecutors would secure a conviction, and in order to minimize this risk, initiated the plea bargain with Rosenstein's legal team, led by attorney Roy Black.
A Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed on Friday that there was progress in talks regarding a possible plea bargain, and police officials said that although the deal was not complete, it was expected to be signed this week.
Rosenstein's trial had been slated to begin in Miami at the end of January.
According to the extradition agreement between Israel and the US, Israelis residing in Israel may be extradited for crimes committed abroad on condition that the prosecuting state agrees to let the suspect, if convicted, serve out his term in Israel.
Rosenstein, 51, was considered the Israel Police's top target for years and is suspected of running one of the most successful crime syndicates in Israel. But for nearly two decades, the police had failed to build a case against him.
Rosenstein's last conviction in Israel was in 1978, and his police record contains only offenses such as break-ins and armed robbery.