Israel: Police Arrest Alleged Crime Boss, Rabbi for Extortion

Israeli authorities have arrested alleged organized crime kingpin Shalom Domrani and prominent rabbi Yoram Abergil, reports The Jerusalem Post.

Domrani, who is believed to be the leader of a major southern Israeli crime group, is accused of working with Rabbi Abergil to alter an October 22nd municipal election. Lahav 433, a specialized police unit focused on combating organized crime and sometimes called the “Israeli FBI,” arrested the two men as well as five other suspects, reports The Times of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post said that Domrani and Rabbi Abergil are believed to have threatened a second rabbi, Yaakov Ifergan, for not supporting the incumbent in a local political campaign in the city of Netivot.

Rabbi Ifergan, who is known as the ““x-ray rabbi” for his alleged healing powers, is a rival of Rabbi Abergil, running a “competing religious networ[k].” According to the Jerusalem Post, the authorities do not believe that the alleged threats altered the election results. However, Domrani and Rabbi Abergil are being charged for obstruction of justice and extortion.

The arrests come in the wake of a series of suspected mob-related crimes in Israel. On Thursday November 7th, the car of a Tel Aviv prosecutor who was working on cases against organized crime groups exploded. 

This followed car bombs in late October and early November in the southern city of Ashkelon, attacks which authorities believe to be part of “a string of underworld assassination attempts” reports the Times of Israel. Two of the victims of the car bombings are alleged to be members of a Domrani crime group.

According to the Israel Hayom newsletter, police superintendent Yisrael Hazan said that the arrests of Domrani and Rabbi Abergil are part of a larger police campaign against organized crime.

Domrani’s lawyer has stated, however, that the arrests are unjust. He argued that “investigators planted the idea of Domrani wanting to hurt the rabbi among his associates,” reports Israel Hayom. Domrani also denies threatening Rabbi Ifergan, saying “… we are people of faith and would not do bad things, God forbid, to a man like that."

Judge Menachem Mizrahi rejected the claims that the arrests were only made to reassure the public that the police are actively combating organized crime. According to the Israel Hayom newsletter, he said, “...the arrest was not some tranquilizer for the public or the media, as has been claimed, but rather [based on] an independent investigation, backed by evidence.”