Head of local council in North and son charged with extortion

Shauki and Razi Abu Latif accused of threatening and attacking Rameh residents who failed to pay debts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels

A view of the Arab Israeli town of Rameh in northern Israel, September 12, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
A view of the Arab Israeli town of Rameh in northern Israel, September 12, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Charges were filed Thursday against Shauki Abu Latif, the head of the local council in the northern town of Rameh, and his son Razi on suspicion of extorting hundreds of thousands of shekels from local residents.

According to the charges filed in the Haifa Magistrate’s Court, Razi Abu Latif was accused of violent extortion, threats, assault and causing grievous bodily harm.

The indictment said that the younger Abu Latif threatened to shoot someone while collecting a debt, and later beat him, fired at his vehicle, and threw an explosive device at the home.

His father is charged with assisting in violent extortion, fraud and breach of trust, and obstruction of justice.

When Razi Abu Latif was arrested earlier this month, investigators said that he had threatened and blackmailed victims who owed money to his father, even though the investigation found the debt had been settled via a crime organization from the north.

The Abu Latif family in Rameh has long been linked to organized crime.

In 2012, five men, including leaders of the family, were arrested on suspicion of murder or attempted murder, weapons possession and drug trafficking.

In 2001, three family members were arrested for smuggling guns and hashish into Israel via Hezbollah agents in Lebanon.

Organized crime has been one of the main drivers in the surge in violence in Arab communities in recent years.

Since the beginning of 2023, 146 Arabs have been killed violently in Israel, according to the Abraham Initiatives. Of those, 104 were killed by gunfire. The figure for all of 2022 was 116, with this year’s death toll matching that in just over half the time.

The bloodletting has not been stopped despite the authorities promising more resources, including more police officers and funds to deal with societal issues underpinning the crime wave.

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