South Africa police arrest Israeli gang leader wanted for attempted murder

The 46-year-old gang leader is attached to a criminal group called the Abergil Organization and has been on Interpol's Red Notice list since 2015, police said in a statement.

 Gunmen kill 15 people inside a tavern in Soweto (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gunmen kill 15 people inside a tavern in Soweto
(photo credit: REUTERS)

South African police arrested Israeli gang leader Yaniv Ben Simon, wanted for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, in an early Thursday morning raid in an affluent Johannesburg suburb.

The 46-year-old was in his seventh year of hiding in South Africa, according to Israeli reports. He is known for his connections to Abergil Israeli crime family, specifically as the right-hand man of Yitzhak Abergil, the imprisoned leader of the crime organization.

Ben Simon has been on Interpol's Red Notice list since 2015, which demands law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest him pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action. A statement released by South African law enforcement said the suspect "is part of a notorious gang dealing in drug trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities," according to Israeli authorities. 

The statement further mentioned two incidents where the suspect allegedly placed bombs under and above a victim's vehicle. 

"During an early morning take-down operation, the team pounced on an identified address in Bryanston and found the suspect and seven others, 12 firearms including five assault rifles, seven pistols and $40,000," the police statement added.

Israeli mob boss Itzhak Abergil appears at an extradition hearing. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)Israeli mob boss Itzhak Abergil appears at an extradition hearing. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Israel Police laud 'huge' capture of wanted criminal

Israel Police's Unit of International Crime Investigations Cmdr. Shmuel Sharvit told Ynet the arrest of "one of the most senior wanted criminals" was a "huge accomplishment" for police.

According to Sharvit, South African police were able to locate him following covert intelligence cooperation with Israel Police and Interpol. "We have strong evidence against him," Sharvit added.

Outgoing Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev praised Israel Police for its part in the capture of a "senior Israeli criminal," he wrote on Twitter later on Thursday.

"Congratulations to Israel Police and its intelligence and interrogation division for the professional work...which led to the capture of a senior Israeli criminal and of other Israeli criminals who were with him," the public security minister wrote.

Yitzhak Abergil was previously sentenced to three life sentences and another 15 years in prison as part of Case 512.

Reuters contributed to this report.