Police: Mob boss Yitzhak Abergil used top Israeli construction firm to launder tens of millions

Case "should be of great concern to those worried about the connection between business and organized crime in Israel," police say.

Abergil heading to jail January 30 2014 (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL PRISON SERVICE)
Abergil heading to jail January 30 2014
A large, publicly traded construction company helped transfer and launder tens of millions of shekels for Yitzhak Abergil’s organized-crime syndicate, police said on Tuesday.
Abergil, who was brought to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday from prison, is among five suspects arrested in the case, including two men at the top of one of the country’s most successful construction companies.
Police believe Abergil used the company to launder around NIS 60 million by funneling the money through it and back through another construction company he was linked to.
Police said large sums were transferred from the company to Abergil, but they would not say how much. They also would not confirm or deny whether the company’s managers agreed to cooperate with Abergil because they were threatened, but did specify that Abergil’s organization managed to infiltrate the core of the company.
The arrest warrant issued on Tuesday morning for Abergil, aged 45 and originally from Lod, does not specify extortion, containing only the charges of fraud, falsifying documents, tax charges and a series of other white-collar crimes.
The investigation, the details of which have been subject to a media gag order that was partially lifted on Tuesday, covers activities that took place between 2007 and 2011. It was during this period when Abergil’s organization used funds from the company in question to fund its operations.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a detective in charge of the case called it unprecedented and added that it “should be of great concern to those worried about the connection between business and organized crime in Israel.”
Police said that Abergil managed to oversee the conspiracy even after his extradition to the US in 2011 and that he was still in charge while behind bars in California.
Attorney Ronal Fisher, who is representing two of the defendants in the case, disputed the police allegations in court on Tuesday, saying that the company simply did not have the capacity to make tens of millions of shekels disappear.
“Every single project they build is supervised by bankers and not a cent is paid without supervision. Some sort of fantasy has been created here and I don’t even know where to start trying to convince police and tax investigators that there’s nothing to it,” he said.
After spending three years incarcerated in California for drug trafficking and racketeering, Abergil returned to Israel this past January in order to serve his remaining years of prison time.
In February, Abergil asked the Jerusalem District Court asking to be sent back to the US to finish his sentence, saying the conditions of his Israeli incarceration were too harsh, including the total isolation he is kept in due to his status as a major organized- crime figure.
In addition to the men at the top construction company, the case involves two men from a much smaller construction company that previously ran afoul of the law in 2012 when they were arrested on suspicion of falsifying documents and receipts from the company in collaboration with a suspect working for another company.
Police said this week that the case is not one like the “Heftziba” several years ago, during which the construction company collapsed, leaving innocent Israelis who bought homes bankrupt or without their property.
Nonetheless, they said the case is highly troubling especially considering that it is a publicly traded company and that they don’t know of another case like this involving a construciton company and alleged financial crimes and links to organized crime of this extent.
The remands of all five suspects were extended on Tuesday by six days.