Israeli Gang Leader Arrested in South Africa for Conspiracy to Commit Murder
Edited by: Fern Sidman
South African police said on Thursday that they had arrested Israeli gang leader Yaniv Ben Simon, wanted for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in an early morning raid in an affluent Johannesburg suburb, according to a report on Ynet News.
The 46-year-old criminal is affiliated with a criminal group called the Abergil Organization, and known to be a close associate of one of its leaders – Itzhak Abergil.
The man who was apprehended was described by South African media as Israel’s “most wanted gang leader,” according to a report on The Times of Israel web site.
Ben Simon, nicknamed the number one most wanted Israeli in the world, has been on Interpol’s Red Notice list since 2015, YnetNews.com reported. A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.
The Times of Israel reported that the Israel Police said the suspect had been on the run since 2015 due to his involvement in the so-called Case 512, a comprehensive probe led by Israel Police’s anti-fraud Lahav 433 unit as part of an ongoing crackdown on organized crime in Israel.
The Israeli Police said that special forces raided Ben Simon’s home, and that his arrest was a result of “great efforts, intel, and operations, as well as cooperation between authorities in Israel and abroad,” as was reported by YnetNews.com
He was arrested along with seven other suspects in a private home in the residential suburb of Bryanston near Johannesburg in an early-morning operation, according to a Times of Israel report.
TOI also reported that upon his arrest, police in South Africa found and confiscated five assault rifles, seven handguns, around $40,000 (NIS 137,000) and three motorcycles. Police suspect the vehicles were stolen.
Ynet reported that the police added that once the operation was complete, the criminal would be passed over to Israeli authorities for further investigation.
“According to Israeli authorities, the suspect is part of a notorious gang dealing in drug trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities,” the South African statement read, mentioning two incidents where the suspect allegedly placed bombs under and above a victim’s vehicle in 2003 and 2004, as was reported by Ynet.
“During an early morning take-down operation, the team pounced on an identified address in Bryanston and found the suspect and seven others, 12 firearms including 5 x assault rifles and 7 x pistols, 40,000 U.S. dollars,” the police statement added. The forces had also found three stolen motorcycles.
South African police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said, “He has been on Interpol’s Red Notice since 2015 and is wanted in Israel for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder,” as was reported by TOI.
The Abergil crime syndicate has long been considered a central player in Israel’s criminal underworld, according to the TOI report.
TOI also reported that in June, Abergil himself was sentenced to three life sentences and an additional 30 years behind bars by an Israeli court for the murder of three uninvolved bystanders during an attempted hit in 2003, due to his role as head of an organized crime group that carried out the bombing.
While Abergil was not accused of carrying out the attack himself, judges charged that he “initiated and planned the incident that would harm civilians,” and described the attack as “a cruel, unbridled plan, no different from a terror attack, “ TOI reported.
Last month, an Israeli citizen with reported ties to organized crime was gunned down in Cape Town. Initial reports said he had traveled to South Africa to try and distance himself from the gangland fighting in Israel, according to the TOI report.
Ynet reported that some four years ago, a recording was released exposing a conversation between Abergil and Ben Simon, in which the two discuss plans to target infamous Israeli drug trafficker Zeev Rosenstein, after one of several failed attempts to take his life in 2003 killed three people and injured 18 others in Tel Aviv.
Abergil previously testified that “Yaniv Ben Simon does not need permission from me or from anyone else. He doesn’t listen to anyone,” Ynet reported.
Ynet also reported that in a different testimony, Abergil was asked about his relationship with Ben Simon, to which he answered that he was not trying to distance himself from claims that they were close, adding that he “loves him” and is “his friend.”
In 2018, a state witness claimed that the person who committed the murder of David Biton, aka “Daydona”, was Yaniv Ben Simon, as was reported by Ynet . However, a separate witness claimed that a different slain criminal was responsible for the murder.