Alleged southern mobster charged with extortion

Jerusalem crime figure is state’s witness against Shalom Domrani.

Alleged southern crime boss Shalom Domrani and seven associates were charged at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court on Monday with launching an extortion campaign of threats and arson designed to protect an alleged monopoly over propane gas distribution in Sderot.
Domrani, who resides in the village of Otzem, near Ashkelon, in a walled and heavily secured mansion surrounded by security cameras, is considered by police to be the most powerful organized crime boss in southern Israel.
He became the focus of an undercover investigation by the Israel Police’s Economic Crimes Unit and Lahav 433 Unit after Menashe Metatov, a businessman from Sderot, signed a complaint against Domrani and his associates. Metatov said they had targeted him with arson, death threats and extortion in a bid to dissuade him from opening a new gas distribution center in the town that would rival the only existing distribution facility in the area.
According to the charge sheet, Metatov had turned to alleged Jerusalem underworld strongman Yossi Malka with a request that he become a “patron” of the new business in order to gain protection from Domrani and his men. Malka at first agreed, but later was talked out of it by Domrani. After police became involved, Malka became a state’s witness, and officers listened in on phone calls between the two. Men later threatened Metatov that he would be harmed if he proceeded with his plans.
Undercover officers monitored a meeting at a Sderot cafe that Metatov held with an alleged representative of Domrani. According to the charge sheet, the representative, named as Roman Hananayav, “mentioned during the conversation the death of Jamal Shahada, the owner of a previous gas company that competed with the older company, and who was murdered on December 29, 2009, in a forest.”
“Do you remember what happened with the Arabs?” Hananayav is alleged to have asked Metatov.
Last month, unknown suspects torched a car belonging to a Metatov associate and set fire to the entrance of the new gas facility in Sderot.
The investigation also produced information that allowed the Tax Authority to charge three men from the South with tax evasion over sums amounting to hundreds of millions of shekels through the use of fictitious receipts.