Israeli crime lords battle royale

Rosenstein quiet in court, but he helps nail Abergil with police.

zeev rosenstein (photo credit: REUTERS)
zeev rosenstein
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although crime lord Zeev Rosenstein essentially refrained on Sunday from testifying in court against his rival, who allegedly tried to assassinate him multiple times, in statements to police, Rosenstein indirectly helped nail crime lord Yitzhak Abergil, sources have indicated to The Jerusalem Post.
Rosenstein did arrive in court to take the witness stand, and in a dramatic moment, faced off not far from Abergil, the main defendant in an attempted murder case where Abergil allegedly gave the order multiple times to murder Rosenstein.
But in the public view of court where testifying against Abergil would appear like he was cooperating with law enforcement to incriminate another gangster, even a ferocious rival, Rosenstein said that, “everything that I had to say, I already gave over to the police. I have nothing to add.”
He refused to provide in public court any details against his alleged assailant, while at the same time saying it was not because of fear of retaliation.
“I don’t fear anyone other than God,” said Rosenstein.
Still, besides those statements, saying, “I don’t remember,” and that he had friendly relations with Abergil, Rosenstein did not give anywhere near the same depth he had given to police out of public view.
Sources said Rosenstein gave police a full description of the various attempts on his life by Abergil, including describing his arrival, who he was speaking to, what happened when various bombs went off and how he was wounded.
Also, while Rosenstein repeated some of the same phrases to police as in court about Abergil and himself being friendly and not having a dispute, in a variety of indirect ways, Rosenstein comprehensively confirmed the details of the fighting between the rival gangs, failed attempts at compromise and confirming evidentiary details given by others, which were helpful to nailing Abergil.
In July 2015, Yitzhak and Meir Abergil and 18 other associates were indicted and arraigned by the Tel Aviv District Court for a range of murders and failed attempts against Rosenstein, including one in Tel Aviv in December 2003 that left three bystanders dead and dozens wounded.
The investigation, known as Case 512, covered a global drug-trafficking, money-laundering and tax-evasion network run by the Abergil family when they were on top of the Israeli underworld, mainly from 2002-2006.
The case had seized headlines for months, largely because of the more than a half a dozen mob bosses included among the more than 40 suspects.
The case includes seven state witnesses mentioned in the indictments, among them well-known and feared mafia enforcers, drug traffickers and associates of the Abergil family.
Yitzhak Abergil has been in prison for a range of criminal offenses linked to his time as one of the country’s leading crime bosses.
He also served some jail time in the US prior to his extradition in January 2014.
His extradition and conviction in the US were the result of one of the most complex joint Israel-US criminal investigations ever carried out, especially in light of his stature in the organized crime world.
The indictment focuses on the criminal syndicate’s operations from 2002-2006 when it imported and exported ecstasy, cocaine, hashish and other drugs around the globe from North America to New Zealand, Japan, Europe and South America. The drug trafficking reached a value of at least NIS 227,949,856 during that time period, the indictment alleges.
Yitzhak Abergil was at the top of the totem-pole and managed all the different arms of the organization – the primary groups being in Israel, Europe and Japan.
The indictment details how in May and June 2003, Yitzhak hatched an (ultimately unsuccessful) conspiracy with Yaniv Ben-Simon, Yitzhak’s righthand man, and D.D., a former top operative turned state’s witness whose name is under gag order, to murder Rosenstein near one of his offices close to Plumer Square in Tel Aviv.
In November 2003, Yitzhak, Ruhan, Meir and several others began to plan another attempt on Rosenstein’s life at a currency-exchange establishment on Yehuda Halevi Street in Tel Aviv, where he did business, by placing a bomb on the awning of the storefront.
On December 11, 2003, the group activated the bomb when Rosenstein was nearby, killing bystanders Rahamim Tzruya, Moshe Mizrahi and Naftali Magad and wounding Rosenstein and 50 others, including bodyguards and bystanders.
Rosenstein himself is near the end of a 12-year prison sentence handed down in 2006 and 2007 by courts in the US and Israel.
In 2004, Rosenstein was charged with ecstasy trafficking in a joint investigation conducted by the Justice Ministry and the US Justice Department.
In a landmark case two years later, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered Rosenstein extradited to the US for trial. The mob leader was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was allowed to serve his sentence in Israel.
Until 2004, Rosenstein had for decades eluded any criminal charges the police had tried to throw at him.