Court convicts mob kingpin of murdering 3 bystanders in failed hit

Yitzhak Abergil deemed responsible for deaths in 2003 bombing that targeted rival; judges find he was head of international crime organization that funded itself with drug trade

Screen capture from video of Yitzhak Abergil, center, entering a courtroom at the Tel Aviv District Court, November 16, 2021. (Ynet)
Screen capture from video of Yitzhak Abergil, center, entering a courtroom at the Tel Aviv District Court, November 16, 2021. (Ynet)

The Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday convicted a notorious mobster of the murder of three bystanders killed during an attempted hit on a rival in 2003, holding him responsible as the head of an organized crime group that carried out the bombing.

Yitzhak Abergil was also convicted of the attempted murder of underworld figure Zeev Rosenstein, who survived. Another 18 were injured in the Tel Aviv explosion.

In addition, Abergil was convicted of a series of drug offenses. His accomplice Avi Rochen was convicted of running an organized crime operation and drugs offenses.

The court found that although Abergil, 52, did not carry out the bombing himself, he was a party to it as the head of a crime organization that judges described as “world-spanning and unprecedented in scope.”

“At the top of the pyramid stood Yitzhak Abergil,” they said.

Abergil is expected to be given a life sentence over the deaths.

In court to hear the verdict was Yael Mizrahi, 72, from Tel Aviv, whose son Moshe was killed in the 2003 explosion.

The judges noted Abergil’s “aspirations for admiration, money, respect, and publicity.”

Regarding the crime organization he headed, which operated from at least 2002 to 2006, the judges said that its leaders had not shied away from violence, even obtaining an anti-tank rocket intended for use against rivals and funding their activities by trading in drugs.

Yitzhak Abergil seen at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Lezion on May 19, 2015. (Moti Kimchi/POOL)

Noting the lengthy time it took from when the crimes were committed until the verdict, lead prosecutor Nissim Marom said, “We are sending a message to organized crime groups that even after the passage of many years we will come after you and bring you to justice.”

Abergil was indicted along with 17 others in July 2015. The multi-year investigation, dubbed “Case 512” and described as one of the largest underworld busts in Israel’s history, encompassed some 40 individual investigations into crimes committed over more than a decade by some 50 suspects, police have said.

In June, Abergil’s brother Meir was granted parole from prison after serving two and a half years of a five-year sentence. Meir Abergil was sentenced in 2018 by the Tel Aviv District Court as part of a plea bargain, in which he admitted to being involved in the failed attempt to kill Rosenstein.

The Abergil brothers were considered heavyweights of Israel’s criminal underworld.

They were both previously arrested in August 2008 in Israel, following an American extradition request, after they were named in an indictment that charged them with using a San Fernando Valley gang to distribute a million MDMA pills and paying a gang member to kill a man for stealing a drug shipment.

They both spent time in US prison. Meir was released in a plea agreement and returned to Israel, but was then arrested again in Case 512. Yitzhak, who in 2012 was given an 8.5-year sentence, was returned to Israel in 2014 to serve the remainder of his sentence in an Israeli prison.

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