One of the two Israelis shot dead in broad daylight in Mexico City on Wednesday has been identified as a prominent figure in Israel’s criminal underworld, sparking suspicions that the killing was a gangland assassination.
One of the suspected killers, 33-year-old Esperanza Gutierrez Rojano, confessed to the shooting and claimed during police questioning that it was a crime of passion, saying the Israeli victim had cheated on her.
But on Thursday, Israeli media reported that the deceased was a well-known Israeli crime boss, Tel Aviv native Ben Suthi, who had completed a lengthy prison sentence in Israel in February.
Israeli police sources told the Ynet news site that there was “no doubt” the murder was “commissioned by those with interests in Israel.” Israeli police reportedly suspect that an Israeli criminal organization paid a local group in Mexico City to carry out the hit.
“We have no doubt this wasn’t a mistake, nor a romantic crime, but a commissioned and planned assassination,” the police source was quoted as saying.
— ynet עדכוני (@ynetalerts) July 25, 2019
Rojano’s confession, in which she reportedly said she had acted out of “betrayal and passion,” may have been code for a retribution attack by a Mexican or Israeli criminal organization for some perceived treachery on Suthi’s part, the source said.
The same news site also quoted what it called “underworld sources” as saying that the assassination constituted “an earthquake in the Israeli criminal world…. This wasn’t someone marginal, but a very dominant figure who was very careful and very suspicious.”
The shooting occurred at a coffee shop in the luxury shopping district Artz Pedregal in the southwest of the city on Wednesday afternoon.
According to preliminary police findings reported in Mexican media, Suthi and a second Israeli man, identified as Bat Yam native Alon Azoulay, were sitting at a table in the cafe, while Rojano, in a blond wig, sat next to an apparent accomplice at another table some 10 meters (33 feet) away. After the Israelis ordered drinks, the assassins stood up, walked over to the targets’ table and shot them multiple times with a Glock handgun at point-blank range.
Rojano then ripped off her wig and shirt and fled the shopping center with police in close pursuit.
A shooting in Artz Pedregal Square left one person dead and 3 injured, the Ministry of Public Safety reported, in the city of Mexico.
— Corelion, LLC (@corelionnews) July 25, 2019
The officers soon caught up with her and placed her under arrest. An officer was reportedly shot and injured during the chase, apparently by two accomplices outside the mall who were helping Rojano escape.
Rojano’s accomplices, who also fled the scene, were not caught.
Suthi relocated to Mexico a few weeks ago, according to media reports. He is believed to have a daughter in the country, conceived during his last stint there after he fled Israel in 2001, escaping a prison term for murder during a furlough from prison.
The shooting comes a day after another Israeli underworld figure, Erez Akrishevsky, was extradited from Mexico to Israel. Akrishevsky was close to Suthi, and had fled Israel with him in 2001, living for the past 18 years in Mexico under the assumed name Ricardo Lopez before he was caught by Mexican police this month and returned to Israel.
The fatal shooting also comes less than a month after an Israeli DJ was shot dead during a rave in central Mexico. Forty-five-year-old Ronen Dahan, known as DJ Perplex, was one of two people gunned down in the shooting in San Luis Potosí, which local media linked to the ongoing drug cartel violence in the country.