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.
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.
Ben Simon, nicknamed the number one most wanted Israeli in the world, has been on Interpol's Red Notice list since 2015. 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 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."
They 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.
"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.
Six months ago, in the 512 case, Abergil was sentenced to three life sentences. Ben Simon's name was mentioned several times throughout the case.
Furthermore, 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."
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. However, a separate witness claimed that a different slain criminal was responsible for the murder.