'Tsanani used underworld figures to extort manager'

Harsh indictment filed against singer; remand extended by four days; said to be shocked by accusations.

Margalit Tzanani in court311 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger)
Margalit Tzanani in court311
(photo credit: Yossi Zeliger)
The Tel Aviv District Prosecution Office filed a harsh indictment on Monday against celebrity singer Margalit Tsanani and crime boss Michael Hazan.
Tsanani and Hazan are both charged with conspiring to commit a crime and acting jointly to extort Tsanani’s talent manager, Assaf Atadegi.
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The indictment also mentions the role of southern crime kingpin Shalom Domrani, whom police arrested and detained in connection with the affair, but who was released to house arrest on Sunday after police failed to convince state prosecutors there was enough evidence to convict him.
Tsanani, who is a judge in the TV song contest program Kohav Nolad (A Star is Born), also stands accused of using her connections and her role on that show to give underworld figures a foothold in the entertainment industry.
According to the indictment, in the course of her work on Kohav Nolad in 2009, Tsanani became acquainted with singer Omer Adam and his father. As a result of that connection, Atadegi began to act as Adam’s manager, and as part of the deal Atadegi was to give Tsanani half the money he earned from representing Adam.
However, at the start of 2010, a dispute arose over how revenues from Adam should be shared between Atadegi and Tsanani.
Atadegi told Tsanani he did not want to represent her any more, and offered to buy out her share of Adam’s royalties.
Tsanani, however, refused.
The two then hired an arbitrator to settle the dispute, but Atadegi refused to accept an agreement to give Tsanani 15 percent of the money he earned from Adam.
In January, Tsanani asked Yaron Ilan, a TV presenter, to arrange a meeting with southern crime kingpin Shalom Domrani, so he could help her reach an agreement with Atadegi. That meeting took place, the indictment states.
Meanwhile, Tsanani also started to suspect Atadegi of hiding details of revenue he received from Adam, and of refusing to give her close friends and the son Assaf Lavi- Tsanani free tickets to performances by Adam.
At that stage, Tsanani decided to involve Michael Hazan, allegedly a member of the Amir Mullner crime family and, according to the indictment, “a man whom she knew inspired fear in those around him with his menacing appearance and behavior. A man who ‘broke teeth’ for a living.”
Tsanani used Hazan to threaten and intimidate Atadegi, to force him to accede to their demands.
The indictment charges that Tsanani went to the Shuk Hashuna (neighborhood market) in Ramat Gan where Hazan worked in order to tell him about her dispute with Atadegi.
To intimidate Atadegi, Tsanani also let him know she and her son Assaf were close friends of Hazan.
From April through July 2011, Hazan threatened Atadegi with the full knowledge of Tsanani, and told him to “do favors” for Assaf by giving him free tickets for Adam’s performances.
Hazan threatened Atadegi with physical violence if he refused to comply.
In one wiretapped telephone conversation, Tsanani told Atadegi to beware of Hazan.
“If you’re careful and respect him, nothing will happen to you,” she told him.
In another intercepted phone call made from Hazan’s home, Tsanani told Atadegi that he had “disrespected” Hazan, and made the crime boss furious.
Atadegi was so frightened that he gave Hazan tickets to Omer Adam performances worth thousands of shekels, the indictment claims.
In return for Hazan’s extorting Atadegi, Tsanani used her role as a judge on Kohav Nolad to do favors for Hazan and his associates in the criminal underworld, including crime boss Shalom Domrani.
In a live broadcast of the show during June, Tsanani scored one contestant according to an SMS Hazan sent her.
Tsanani also mentioned the name of Sagiv Tayari, one of crime boss Amir Mullner’s agents, and a close relative of Kohav Nolad contestant Liron Ramati, live on the show after a performance by Ramati.
In July, Tsanani met with Domrani at Hazan’s request.
During that meeting, Domrani promised that he would make Atadegi “shake so hard with fear that he wouldn’t move a meter.”
The crime boss asked Tsanani to covertly help set him up as a talent manager, using Hazan as a front. According to the plan Domrani proposed, Tsanani would recruit Kohav Nolad contestants for a new talent management business fronted by Hazan.
Domrani said he would “buy off” the contestants from the agreements they had to sign when they took part in the TV show. Every singer who participates in Kohav Nolad is asked to sign a two-year contract with the Teddy Productions talent management company.
Tsanani told Domrani and Hazan that she would not be able to assist openly, but agreed to help from the sidelines because of her proximity to the contestants.
Domrani also said he could help promote the plan using “his people” in the music industry, including TV presenter Yaron Ilan and radio personality Eli “Eliko” Cohen of the Lev Hamedina station.
Shortly before her arrest, Tsanani spoke with Ramati after he won third place on Kohav Nolad, and coached him on how to leave his existing talent management contract with Teddy Productions, suggesting he sign with Domrani’s company instead.
The Tel Aviv District Court also ruled on Monday to extend Tsanani’s remand in the Neve Tirza women’s prison for four more days, pending a report by the probation service regarding whether she can be released to house arrest.
Hazan will also remain in custody pending another hearing.
Judge Zvi Gurfinkel referred to the singer’s “extreme emotional condition” in court as he asked state prosecutors to expedite the report.
State prosecutor Guy Goren told the court that while Tsanani did not pose any specific threat to the public, she is accused of having close connections with senior underworld figures.
Tsanani will appear again in court on Thursday and is expected to be released to house arrest.
Moments after the hearing, Tsanani’s defense attorney Sassy Gez said the singer was in deep shock after hearing the indictment, and said that she should have been released to house arrest because the police investigation is now over.
“Does anyone really believe that she is dangerous? If you read the indictment carefully, you will understand that it won’t lead to a criminal conviction,” Gez told Israel Radio.
“Believe me when I tell you she’s going home after the hearing on Thursday.”
Meanwhile, the two companies behind Kohav Nolad, Keshet and Teddy Productions, said in a statement that the “Margol Affair” had not actually harmed the show.
“All this season’s contestants are represented by, and have signed with, Teddy Productions for a long period,” Keshet said.