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Under wraps – Media and public barred from ‘most wanted Israeli crime kingpin’ court case in Johannesburg

Under wraps – Media and public barred from ‘most wanted Israeli crime kingpin’ court case in Johannesburg
A heavy police presence on Friday, 18 November 2022 at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court as alleged Israeli crime figure Yaniv Yossi Ben Simon appeared with seven other suspects. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

An alleged Israeli crime kingpin and seven others were arrested in Gauteng last week in a raid that netted guns, drugs and money. The media has now been barred from court proceedings as part of strict security measures.

Court proceedings against an alleged top Israeli crime figure and seven of his co-accused are being held privately, apparently due to sensitive information and security around the high-profile case.

Yaniv Yossi Ben Simon and the seven other men appeared in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg on Monday. Simon is wanted by Israel on suspicion of being a close associate of Israeli Itzhak Abergil, leader of the so-called Abergil Organisation, a crime syndicate.

Private proceedings

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane on Monday told Daily Maverick the case against the group of suspects was being held in-camera — without the media or members of the public allowed in.

israeli crime court

A heavy police presence on Friday, 18 November 2022 at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court as Israeli fugitive Yaniv Yossi Ben Simon appeared with seven others. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The in-camera situation meant the media was barred from filming court proceedings. Mjonondwane said it had been decided to hold proceedings in-camera because of security issues.

The case against the eight accused was postponed to 28 November.

It is understood Simon will be back in court on Thursday as he is facing extradition proceedings.

Drugs, drones and weapons

During the police operation, a substance thought to be cocaine, firearms, drones fitted with cameras and motorbikes were among the items seized. A bakkie with an inbuilt soundproofed compartment was also discovered.

Sources in policing circles said the items seized pointed towards a syndicate that was possibly carrying out hits.

Daily Maverick reported that last week’s arrests, as well as a separate case involving another Israeli suspect with links to South Africa, pointed to organised crime extending far beyond the borders of Israel.

National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe, without naming Simon, said last week that the accused was wanted in Israel and was “attached to a criminal organisation [there] called the ‘Abergil Organisation’.”

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“According to Israeli authorities,” Mathe had said, “the suspect is part of a notorious gang dealing in drug trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities.”

Simon also faces attempted murder charges relating to two bomb blasts carried out in Israel in 2003 and 2004.

israeli court police

A police nyala and van leave the Randburg Magistrates’ Court on Friday, 18 November 2022 after the appearance of Israeli fugitive Yaniv Yossi Ben Simon and seven others. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“This wanted suspect allegedly placed an explosive bomb underneath a vehicle of a man in Israel in two separate incidents… As a result of the first explosion, five people sustained serious injuries but all miraculously survived,” Mathe had said.

“In the second incident, the suspect also attempted to do the same with the same victim, where he placed a bomb on top of a vehicle. In this incident, three people sustained serious injuries.”

FBI focus

Last week, Daily Maverick reported that the Abergil Organisation was previously a focus of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A 2012 FBI statement says Itzhak Abergil “was the leader of the Abergil crime family and used the power and influence of the Abergil family to conduct criminal activities in Israel and around the world”.

It is believed that Simon was Abergil’s second-in-command. 

According to the FBI, Abergil was extradited to Israel in 2011 and again in 2012 for “charges including racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion and murder, and conspiracy to import ecstasy into the United States”.

Those charges date back to 2008. DM

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