Police informer leads to arrest of 32

State witness helps uncover arson and grenade attacks, 3 homicides.

arrest generic 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
arrest generic 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A police informerfrom the criminal underworld has led to the arrests of 32 suspected gangsters belonging to at least three crimeorganizations in the South and Center, police revealed on Thursday, followingthe lifting of a media gag order.

The informer, who has turned state's witness, helped uncover at least 3 murders- including the homicide of a former soccer player – eight attempted murders,and dozens of arson attacks, grenade attacks, extortion attempts, and arms anddrug trafficking, allegedly carried out over the past two years, according toDep.-Cmdr. Yossef Cohen, head of the Negev Police's Central Unit.
"The state's witness has risked his life," Cohen said during a press conference held at a Beersheba police station on Thursday.
All of the alleged offenses took place among criminals, Cohen told The JerusalemPost.
"The South will be quieter after this," he added. The murders wereall carried out using firearms, Cohen said. The murder victims have been namedas Nati Ohion, Moshe Zitun, and Eli Uzan, a former Hapoel Beersheba soccerplayer.
Leading the list of suspects is ex-convict Hagai Zagori, considered by policeto be "Beersheba'sgodfather." Zagori completed a prison sentence in 2008 for attempting tobribe Hapoel Beersheba players and match fixing. Since his release, a number ofhis rivals have been shot dead.
Zagori is suspected of murder and attempted murder, Cohen said.  "TheZagori family is heavily involved in crime in the area," he added. Zagori'sbrother, Yaniv, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for a variety of severecrimes.
Other suspects under arrest include Zachariya Edri, of Beersheba, considered by police to beZagori's deputy. Dadi Ben Haim, Sharon Ben Haim and Victor Atiya are also amongthe detainees.
The suspects have all denied the suspicions against them.
"Not all of the offenses we detailed are attributed to all suspects. Everysuspect will have his own case to answer, and indictments will be served afterthe evidence is assembled and sorted," Cohen said at the press briefing.
Dozens of detectives from the police's southern district and the NationalSerious and International Crimes Unit raided the homes of suspects on Tuesdaymorning, carrying out arrests, searches, and seizing cash, vehicles and otherassets. The arrests mark the end of a two-year-long undercover investigation.
Cohen said the three criminal organizations operating in the South and Centertargeted in the arrests were not engaged in wars against one another, nor werethey linked by alliances. "Each group looked out for its owninterests," he said.
Despite acknowledging the existence of the crime syndicates, police are still unsurewhether they have amassed sufficient evidence to charge the suspects withbelonging to a criminal organization.
Police are describing the investigation as one of the most complex everconducted, adding that the criminal activities crossed police districtboundaries and required high-level police oversight and cooperation.
"We are waging a determined struggle against crime organizations... thisis not a slogan, it has been seen in our action over the past year, in whichthe number of arrests have grown significantly, and cases have been pursueduntil the offenders were brought to justice," said Southern PoliceCommander Yochanan Danino during a briefing of police commanders beforeTuesday's raids.
"We will continue to fight crime on all levels from street crime to severeoffenses using all available means, in order to safeguard the security southernresidents," Danino added.