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. Many heads and members of the crime groups have either been killed or are in prison
Organized crime in IsraelThe major crime groups are the Abergils, the Abutbuls, the Alperons, the Dumranis, the Shirazis, the Amir Molnar and Zeev Rosenstein syndicatesThe illegal activities they are engaged in include:
Operating casinos and other forms of gambling inside and outside Israel
Prostitution and trafficking in women
Protection and extortion rackets
Drugs and arms dealing
Fencing stolen goods
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.
Ex-Soviet organized crimeEx-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 an Israeli passport, using fake Jewish documentation.
The Israeli mafia in the United StatesIn 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 1 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, Yitzik 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