District Attorney nails crime kingpin Assi Abutbul

For the second time in less than a year, the District Attorney's Office claimed victory Friday morning over suspected mob kingpin Assi Abutbul. With the delivery of a massive indictment against the Netanya resident, cops and prosecutors alike were optimistic that this time the charges would stick - and that Abutbul would be the first of Israel's crime kings to be undone by the Israel Police's new push against organized crime. The 164-page indictment, delivered at the Tel Aviv District Court, followed an intensive investigation by the International and Serious Crimes Unit of the Israel Police and implicated Abutbul in extortion carried out against businessmen and contractors. "I would emphasize that this is a serious indictment, the first of its type submitted against a recognized crime syndicate. The indictment detailed throughout dozens of pages speaks for itself," said a senior officer in the Investigations and Intelligence Division. The indictment contained 23 defendants besides Abutbul and detailed 22 separate cases of extortion, bribery, and threats. Over 200 people are expected to be called as witnesses in the trial, which will center on allegations of crimes committed between 2005 and 2007. Many of Abutbul's alleged victims were new immigrant entrepreneurs from France. The suspected extortions totaled millions of shekels, and police said that when the money was late or unpaid, the victims were threatened and sometimes violently attacked. The indictment detailed prosecutors' claims on how Abutbul's "foot soldiers" would locate potential victims and report their identities to their boss. The threats to one family of French immigrants described in the indictment included statements such as, "You'll see what war is. We'll [expletive] you, your wife and your children." When that family still refused to pay up, petrol bombs were thrown into the father-in-law's Netanya house and the families' cars were burned. In addition, Abutbul is suspected in intervening in a turf war between two egg exporters - Glicksman Egg Marketers 1994 and Arbel. Arbel's owners, Moran and Nahman Hen, were also named in Friday's indictment for allegedly threatening Yona Glicksman. The Hens reportedly told their competitor that they would turn to Abutbul to elicit money from Glicksman. After the Hens allegedly did so, Abutbul's foot soldiers began a campaign of threats and extortion against Glicksman. Abutbul's men also threatened to burn down the house of the attorney arbitrating between the two egg companies if he failed to pay them $300,000. The attorney and his wife eventually fled to the North. Detectives also believe that a French-Israeli businessman tried to cross the border into Jordan in order to flee Abutbul's extortion attempts. Due to the large numbers of suspects, allegations, and victims, most members of the ISCU were involved in the investigation, led by Dep.-Cmdr. Koresh Ben-Nur. Abutbul, meanwhile, has outfitted himself with an all-star legal team that includes well-known lawyers Moshe Sherman and David Yiftah. His defense team has already begun chipping away at the indictment, complaining that most of the crimes detailed were not carried out by Abutbul himself, but by others allegedly acting at their client's behest.