Israel Police on Monday released a suspected crime boss who was arrested as part of an ongoing crackdown on organized crime, after failing to link him to the attempted murder of another crime boss.
Nissim Alperon, part of the Tel Aviv-area Alperon crime family, had been arrested based on state’s witness testimony that implicated him in the 2002 assassination of notorious Israeli mob kingpin Felix Abutbul.
But police were forced to let him go Monday due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
Judge Menachem Mizrachi had already extended his initial six-day detention by another two days earlier this week, but implied that police would need to come up with more considerable proof, the Ynet news site reported.
Police also released information Tuesday regarding a meeting of Israeli crime families in Brussels just before a 2003 assassination attempt on infamous crime boss Zeev Rosenstein.
Yitzhak Abergil of the Abergil crime ring, Avi Rohan and other heads of Israel’s crime families met in the Belgian capital to discuss their options for taking down Rosenstein, a police official told reporters at Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Tuesday.
This revelation came out during an argument between Rohan and the state’s witness the day before. During the argument, the witness revealed that during the 2003 meeting, Abergil said, “You need money to hurt Rosenstein.”
The attempt on Rosenstein’s life was carried out in December 2003 in central Tel Aviv. A car bomb detonated, killing three bystanders, but failed to kill Rosenstein, earning him the moniker “the wolf with seven lives.” His name, Zeev, is Hebrew for wolf.
Alperon was the first person released in the so-called “Case 512,” a comprehensive ongoing probe by Israel Police’s anti-fraud Lahav 433 unit together with the Tel Aviv district police into the criminal underworld that has been dominating headlines in the country for nearly three weeks.
“We are glad the court was overseeing the police investigation and that the police understood that there was no truth to the suspicion,” Alperon’s brother, Zalman, told Ynet news.
Nissim Alperon was stopped at the airport on his way to a vacation in Greece with his family. The name of Alperon, 60, apparently came up on a flagged list before he managed to board the plane.
Alperon was born in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givat Shmuel to Egyptian immigrant parents. Starting at a young age he and his brothers began demanding protection money from local businesses.
Abutbul, a promoter of illegal gambling in Israel and abroad, was killed in 2002 by a bike-riding shooter near his Prague casino.
Fifteen years before his death, Abutbul was infamously involved in the failed abduction of a Nigerian minister from London.
Abutbul, nicknamed “The Gambling King of Netanya,” was caught and sentenced to six years in prison after the minister was discovered inside a wooden box meant to be shipped overseas aboard a plane.
Alperon’s attorney Moshe Yochai told Ynet news following his client’s release, “There was nothing to the arrest from the get-go.”
“It was a waste that it was done at all,” he added.
Alperon’s brother Zalman also denied his family’s involvement in the attempted hit. “As we said from the beginning — Nissim had no connection to that event,” he told Ynet.
“We’re on great terms with the Abutbul family,” he added.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.