Tsanani probe raises questions about mob’s showbiz ties

Police fear elements of organized crime may also be setting sights on municipalities, land tenders and sports.

August 31, 2011 02:14
2 minute read.
Margalit Tzanani in court

Margalit Tzanani in court311. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger)


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Police have long expressed concern that crafty elements from the organized crime world were infiltrating a range of nationally important spheres, from municipalities, land tenders and sports.

As the firestorm being kicked up by the arrest and indictment of celebrity singer and TV personality Margalit Tsanani shows no sign of weakening, police are viewing the case as a window on a worrying association between the Hebrew Mediterranean (Mizrahi) music world – which is the most profitable music market in the country – and the underworld, as well as alleged attempts by mobsters to gain control of the country’s most watched television program.

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News programs have in recent days interviewed Mizrahi music stars who pronounced unabashedly that they have performed for some the most notorious criminal elements.

The facts of Tsanani’s case are by now well known. She is charged of turning to individuals who are associated with alleged mob kingpins Amir Mulner and Shalom Domrani with a request to extort the music agent Assaf Atadegi, following a financial dispute.

The dispute revolved around profits made from representing and promoting contestants from Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born), a singing contest program that has become the most highly rated show in the country. Tsanani served as a judge on the program’s panel.

It is what the alleged underworld figures asked Tsanani to do in return for the alleged extortion which paints an apparently bleak picture on the extent of mob involvement in the world of entertainment.

According to suspicions published by Yedioth Ahronoth, Shalom Domrani – considered by police as a major crime boss in southern Israel – allegedly planned on opening an agency that would represent singers from Kochav Nolad, and instructed Tsanani via an associate to begin using her status as a judge to recruit singers from the show to the agency.

Domrani’s lawyer, Moshe Sherman, told Yedioth that the allegations were fabricated by police and had no relation to reality. Domrani was released from custody this week after state prosecutors concluded that insufficient evidence existed to back up the police’s suspicions.

Tsanani is also suspected of answering a request by criminal elements to mention the name of a convict behind bars live on air during the program.

The convict was a relative of one of the contestants, and the mention of his name was allegedly agreed upon beforehand by Tsanani and a mobster.

Tsanani, for her part, has maintained her innocence. Her future trial is expected to shed more light on the case.

In the meantime, the police’s national investigation units have been ordered to continue seeking the dark hand of the mob wherever they suspect it is present.

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