|Territory||Israel, Europe, United States|
|Ethnicity||Moroccan Jews, Georgian Jews, Russian Jews, Persian Jews, Arabs, Bedouin, Jewish Israeli, Arab Israeli|
|Criminal activities||Drug trafficking, diamond trafficking, racketeering, loan sharking, robbery, extortion, money laundering, highjacking, gambling, prostitution, bookmaking, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, Lobbying|
|Allies||Italian-American mafia, Russian mafia, Jewish American mafia, Italian organized crime groups|
|Rivals||Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican drug cartels|
The Israeli mafia is the general term for organized crime groups operating in Israel and also internationally. Allegedly there are 16 crime families operating in Israel, five major groups active on the national level, and 11 smaller organizations. There are reputed to be six Maghrebi Jewish crime families active and three Arab crime families. Many heads and members of the crime groups have either been killed or are in prison.
Organized crime in Israel
- Operating casinos and other forms of gambling inside and outside Israel
- Car theft and smuggling
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Money Laundering
- Protection and extortion rackets
- Loan sharking
- Drugs and arms dealing
- Fencing stolen goods
- Diamond smuggling
According to Israel’s former Police Commissioner David Cohen, Israeli crime organizations had penetrated the formal economic sector and local governments, and “equipped themselves with large quantities of combat means explosives and arms.” In a mob war starting in the early 2000s between the crime families, several crime bosses were killed. It also cost the life of innocent bystanders. The Iakhbal is the Israeli Special Police Unit that fights organized crime.
Ex-Soviet organized crime
Ex-Soviet organized crime in Israel began with the mass immigration of Russian Jews to Israel in 1989. The Russian mafia saw Israel as an ideal place to launder money, as Israel's banking system was designed to encourage aliyah, the immigration of Jews, and the accompanying capital. Following the trend of global financial deregulation, Israel had also implemented legislation aimed at easing the movement of capital. Combined with the lack of anti-money laundering legislation, "Russian" organised crime found it an easy place to transfer ill-gotten gains. In 2005, police estimated that Russian organised crime had laundered between $5 and 10 billion in the fifteen years since the end of the Soviet Union. Even non-Jewish criminals such as Sergei Mikhailov sought to get Israeli passports, using fake Jewish documentation.
Russian and Ukrainian Jewish criminals have also been able to set up networks in the USA, following the large migration of Russian Jews to New York and Miami, but also in European cities such as Berlin and Antwerp. Many of these Russian gangsters have Israeli passports as well. Infamous Russian-Jewish mobsters include Marat Balagula, Evsei Agron and their respective criminal gangs in the USA. In Europe Semyon Mogilevich and Boris Nayfeld are well-known crime bosses, among others. Soviet-Jewish criminal groups in the USA are involved in racketeering, prostitution, drug trafficking, extortion, and gasoline fraud as well as murder.
Georgian-Jewish organized crime
Outside of said criminal organizations consisting of Russian and Ukrainian Jews, family-based organized crime groups were formed among Georgian Jewish immigrants as well. Georgian-Jewish crime families have been able to expand their operations to Western European cities such as Antwerp. They are involved in counterfeiting, fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, weapon trafficking, prostitution and armed robbery. Such was the case with the Georgian-Jewish Melikhov clan in Antwerp.
North-African crime families
The immigration of Egyptian and Moroccan Jews to Israel and their settlement in the more impoverished neighborhoods led to the creation of crime families among Maghrebi Jews as well. This is evident in the fact that a large number of Israeli organized criminals have fled to Morocco in recent years. Israeli crime families of Moroccan Jewish descent expanded their operations to Europe and the USA, especially with their involvement in drug trafficking. Some of Israel's more well-known crime families are of North African Jewish descent: the Abergil crime family as well as the Abutbul and Domrani clans are originally from Morocco, the Alperon clan came from Egypt, and the Shirazi clan from Iran.
Palestinian organized crime
Apart from the largely ex-Soviet and North African Jewish crime families, Palestinian organized crime groups (a fair amount are in fact of Bedouin descent) were formed as well. It is alleged that several Palestinian villages are home to local crime families, the most famous of them being the Doghmush clan. Palestinian crime families are involved in extortion, drug and weapon trafficking, fraud as well as money laundering, often in cooperation with their Jewish counterparts. Palestinian criminals are internationally active as well. An example was the criminal gang around Moussa Aliyan in New York whose main business was the importation of heroin.
In the United States
In the 1980s Israelis set up a crime syndicate headed by Johnny Attias in New York, dubbed the “Israeli mafia”. It pulled off the biggest gold heist in the history of Manhattan's jewellery district, getting away with over $4 million in gold jewellery. Attias was murdered in January 1990, and New York's Israeli mafia fell apart soon after. Several members among them Ron Gonen had turned informant and the authorities arrested the rest of the gang in September of that year.
Israeli crime organizations such as the Abergil crime family and Zeev Rosenstein are heavily involved in ecstasy trafficking in the United States. In a statement before Congress in 2000, officials with the U.S. Customs Service noted that "Israeli organized-crime elements appear to be in control" of the multibillion-dollar U.S. ecstasy trade, "from production through the international smuggling phase". The main drug supplier of former Gambino crime family underboss Sammy Gravano in his Arizona drug ring allegedly was New York based Israeli mobster Ilan Zarger, who allegedly distributed more than one million ecstasy pills from May 1999 to May 2000 with a wholesale value of $7 million. He pleaded guilty to charges of running a drug gang that flooded Arizona and New York with almost four million ecstasy pills over three years. Another Israeli, Oded Tuito, said to head one of the largest ecstasy-smuggling organization, which imported millions of ecstasy pills from Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt into New York, Miami and Los Angeles, was arrested in May 2001.
In 2006 Zeev Rosenstein was extradited to the U.S., after being arrested in Israel. He pleaded guilty before a federal court in Florida to charges that he distributed ecstasy pills and was sentenced to 12 years in prison which he serves in Israel. In January 2011, Itzhak (Itzik) Abergil and Meir Abergil and three other suspects were extradited to the U.S.
They are facing a 77-page, 32-count federal indictment that alleges murder, massive embezzlement, money laundering, racketeering and running a large Los Angeles-based ecstasy ring. The trial is set for November 8, 2011 in the Los Angeles Federal District Court.[needs update]
Itzhak (Itzik) Abergil, center, escorted by Israeli forces, January 12, 2011
Meir Abergil, January 12, 2011
Zeev Rosenstein, escorted by federal agents, on his way from Israel to trial in the USA.
- Abergil Crime Family - Top criminal organization in Israel, involved mostly in drug trafficking and illegal gambling.
- Asi Abutbul - Head of the Abutbul Crime Family, got 13 years in prison for running a criminal organization, extortion, and money laundering.
- Yaakov Alperon - Head of the Alperon Crime Family, until his car bombing assassination on November 17, 2008.
- Ludwig Fainberg - He was a crime figure in America with connections to the Medellin Cartel and the Russian Mafia, until he got busted. He lives in Israel now.
- Semion Mogilevich - A Russian crime figure operating worldwide, said to be the most powerful crime figure in the world, he allegedly runs human trafficking, prostitution and other criminal operations in Israel and other countries, and allegedly launders a lot of his money in Israel.
- Zeev Rosenstein - Used to be the top crime figure in Tel-Aviv, until he was caught. He was heavily involved in drug trafficking, mostly ecstasy, and allegedly ran other criminal operations as well.
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