Abergil brothers' extradition approved

Court decision comes 1 year after FBI charges Yitzhak, Meir Abergil; lawyers may appeal ruling.

Yitzhak and Meir Abergil 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Yitzhak and Meir Abergil 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered Yitzhak Abergil, his brother, Meir, and three other members of the Abergil gang to be extradited to the US on charges including drug dealing, extortion, money-laundering and murder. According to attorney Yitzhak Blum, a prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office, the ruling marks the first time that Israel and the US have acted on a protocol signed recently between the two countries providing for the reciprocal extradition of alleged criminals suspected of belonging to a crime organization. In his ruling, Judge David Cheshin wrote that "after examining each piece of prima facie evidence put before me, and after considering the arguments of both sides, I reached the conclusion that I must accept the state's extradition petition and declare that all five defendants are extraditable to the US for charges attributed to them in the US indictment." Yitzhak Abergil's lawyer, Sharon Nahari, said after the hearing that he would appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court. Meir Abergil's lawyer, Avi Amiram, also made it clear he would he would appeal. The defendants sought by the US include the Abergil brothers, Sasson Barashi, Moshe Malul and Yisrael Ozifa. Cheshin added that the US District Court for the Central District of California, which is due to try the Israeli suspects, may only consider those charges in the indictment pertaining to the US Racketeering Law regarding actions that occurred after Israel's Organized Crime Law was enacted by the Knesset on June 17, 2003. The activities for which the Abergils and their gang members were charged took place between 2002 and 2006. The charges in the US indictment, which was filed on July 23, 2008, included the following: • Abergil, his brother, Barashi and others knowingly took money embezzled from the Tel Aviv Trade Bank by Esther Alon to repay the gambling debts of her brother, Ofer Maximov. Yitzhak Abergil took over Maximov's debts and forced businessmen in Israel and the US to accept loans from him, then forced them under threat to repay the money immediately afterwards. By doing so, the gang laundered the cash which Alon had stolen from the bank. • Abergil and Malul joined forces to traffic in narcotics and murder a member of the gang, Sami Atias, who allegedly tried to steal money from the drug trafficking organization. Malul ran a drug trafficking operation in southern California with the help of a Los Angeles street gang known as the Vineland Boys, led by Luis Sandoval. Malul and Abergil conspired to kill Atias, who was shot to death in a parking lot on August 31, 2003. • Abergil and Ozifa conspired to distribute more than 50 kilograms of Ecstasy smuggled into the US from Belgium. Following the decision, Blum told The Jerusalem Post he was "very satisfied with the outcome of the ruling. We hope that with the new protocol with the US, we have the tools to deal with international organized crime and that today's court decision will send a message to such organizations that if they choose to break the law, they do so at their own risk." Nahari told reporters that he was "quite disappointed. Even though the court did not accept the entire extradition request of the state and ruled that the suspects could not be extradited on the basis of some of the evidence, they will still be extradited. We hope to file an appeal with the Supreme Court and to carry out the judicial procedure to its end." If the suspects are extradited to the US and convicted there, they will serve their sentences in Israel, in accordance with the Israeli Extradition Law. The Jerusalem District Court courtroom was packed with relatives and friends of the defendants. Meir Abergil stopped to talk to well-wishers after he entered the courtroom, but said he expected that the judge would rule to extradite him.