17 men indicted on racketeering charges

Twenty-four are arrested earlier in week following 2-month investigation into "Pomegranate Tree Affair"; police say more arrests expected.

high court panel citizenship law 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
high court panel citizenship law 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office filed indictments on Thursday against 17 men on multiple charges involving the operation of a large racketeering ring – in a case that has been dubbed the “Pomegranate Tree” affair.
Twenty-four people were arrested on Wednesday following a two month investigation by police, which rested largely on the testimony of two state witnesses recruited from within the ranks of the organization.
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The police said more arrests were expected in the upcoming days.
According to the indictment sheets, the men – residents of Or Yehuda, Jaffa and the Arab villages of Jaljulya and Taybe – were charged with multiple offenses including, attempted murder, extortion, blackmail, assault, arson, malicious damage by explosive and more.
In one case, the accused were indicted for conspiring to throw a hand grenade into the yard of a former associate in an effort to scare him into paying one of the suspects a sum of NIS 2 million.
In another case, the accused conspired to torch the car of a man who they claimed owed them money.
According to the indictments, in multiple instances the accused used violence and the threat of violence to collect money from borrowers who they lent money to at exorbitant interest rates – including in one case, the use of a gun to shoot the leg of a borrower.
The indictments revealed that the gang members were methodic in their use of violence, and the threat of violence, and were willing to engage in it to receive sums ranging from a thousand to tens of thousands of shekels.
The District Attorney’s office requested detention pending completion of proceedings for all of the suspects indicted.
“In light of the fact that we are dealing with crimes of extortion – not to mention the weapons, the shooting and the grenade – there is just cause to remand the suspects for various reasons, including danger to the public, fear of obstruction of justice and fear that they will threaten witnesses,” argued the prosecution lawyer in his request for remand.
“The actions of the accused reveal a pattern of criminal behavior on behalf of themselves and others – while showing no reluctance from using firearms and endangering innocent citizens in their deeds,” he added.
Despite the protests of some of the suspects’ lawyers that their clients were only marginally involved in the alleged crimes, District Court Judge Zion Kapah agreed to keep all the suspects under arrest until their defense lawyers had a chance to study the charges.
A series of hearings on the request for long-term remand is expected for the end of March and beginning of April.