US requests extradition of mob bosses

Itzik and Meir Abergil wanted by FBI for operating and belonging to a criminal organization.

Itzik Abergil 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Itzik Abergil 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
If the police succeed in extraditing Itzik and Meir Abergil to the US, one of Israel's allegedly largest and deadliest organized crime families will see its leaders deported and likely suffer a serious decline in power. Alleged mob boss Itzik Abergil was arrested along with his brother, Meir, and three other suspects by the police's Lahav 443 Unit on Sunday. Police said the Abergil brothers were wanted by the FBI for operating and belonging to a criminal organization, threats, extortion, money laundering, drug dealing, and other charges. "This arrest follows long, complex and tight cooperation between the Israel Police and US law enforcement agencies," police said in a statement. Police added that the National Fraud Unit would continue to investigate Abergil over the botched assassination attempt on members of his own organization in Bat Yam on July 28 in which an innocent bystander was killed. Marguerita Lautin, 31, was shot in front of her husband and two children on the Tobago beach front, after Ronen Ben-Adi and Shimon Sabah arrived on motorcycles and fired on Moti Hasin and Rami Amira, both said to be Abergil crime family associates. Itzik Abergil is suspected of ordering the hit. Although police say they lack much of what they need to take on the local mafia - money, technology, skilled prosecutors and a witness protection program (promised soon) - they hope that Sunday's arrests will soothe an outraged public, still reeling from the Bat Yam slaying. The Abergils are considered to be in the "top five" list of Israeli mob families, and are linked by police to the drug trade, illegal gambling and violent crime. "They have no fear, and no regard for human lives. Yitzhak Abergil gives his soldiers targets, and the weapons and money for the hits," MK and former deputy Israel Police insp.-gen. Yitzhak Aharonovitch said last month. Hundreds of armed "soldiers" are believed to be at Itzik Abergil's command. Abergil, 35, grew up in Lod in a large family. Police say his brother Meir was one of the country's first big-time heroin dealers. Itzik Abergil has survived at least five assassination attempts, including a LAW missile attack. Sharon Nahari, a lawyer for the Abergil brothers, accused the police of "trickery" on Sunday, saying Itzik Abergil was rearrested at the headquarters of the National Fraud Unit in Bat Yam on Sunday immediately after being released from custody in connection with the botched assassination. The police's decision to extradite the Abergils is reminiscent of its handling of convicted mob boss Ze'ev Rosenstein, who was sent to the US in November 2004 and returned to Israel in March 2007 to serve out his 12-year prison sentence. After failing to stop Rosenstein for two decades, Israeli police arrested him together with US law enforcement agencies for smuggling millions of dollars' worth of the psychedelic drug Ecstasy. Rosenstein's arrest was made possible due to testimony by eye witnesses, who have since moved to the US to enter a federal witness protection program. That maneuver bears a remarkable resemblance to the current effort to send the Abergils away from Israeli shores. Prof. Menahem Amir of the Hebrew University's criminology department said the police's decision to extradite the Abergils would have to be based on solid evidence. "They wouldn't take this kind of risk just like that," he said. Police have encountered huge difficulties in convicting mob bosses due to the many precautions taken by them, such as the buffer placed between the leaders and their soldiers - the gunmen sent to carry out hits on "traitors" and other enemies. Most gangland shootings are believed by crime experts to be the result of internal feuds, but some have been the product of all-out wars between four crime families organized into two alliances. In recent years, the Alperon and Abergil families united in a battle for control of criminal activities. They were taken on by Rosenstein, now imprisoned in the Ayalon jail in Ramle, who joined forces with the Abutbul family. A series of bombs, shootings, and LAW missile firings killed several people, including innocent bystanders, during that mob war. It seems almost certain that the Alperon and Abutbul families will attempt to fill the vacuum left by a weakened Abergil family, although it remains unclear how these two families, which have found themselves on opposite sides of an all-out mob war in the past, will deal with one another in their attempt to expand their pieces of the action. These families will also be on the lookout for a determined police effort, backed by an incensed public, to shut them down.