A state witness who testified against top Israeli criminals has been found dead in an unnamed South American country, several Hebrew media outlets reported Sunday.
The Maariv newspaper said the individual was previously a senior member of Yitzhak Abergil’s notorious crime syndicate, and had testified about a number of murders.
The man was living abroad as part of a witness protection program.
After his body was found at his home, police in the South American country notified Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
A message was sent to Israel’s top crime-fighting unit Lahav 433, and officials then notified the family members of the man’s death.
The man was said to have been a well-known figure in the criminal underworld, who turned state witness after he was arrested.
The witness testified as part of the so-called Case 1131, an investigation by Lahav 433 that dealt with a series of assassinations and attempted killings by Abergil and the rival Mosli mafia, in which at least 14 people died.
Last year, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Abergil 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.
Abergil was also convicted of the attempted murder of underworld figure Zeev Rosenstein, who survived a Tel Aviv explosion in which another 18 people were injured. In addition, Abergil was convicted of a series of drug 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.”
Regarding the crime organization Abergil 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.
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.
Abergil and his brother, Meir, 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.