'Promised land for organized crime?'
Leaked document reveals US ambassador's concern over Israeli crime families' growing foothold in his country. Embassy 'using every available tool to limit organized crime travel to the United States, but such efforts are not always successful,' he writes in cable to State Department, FBI
Americans concerned by growing organized crime in Israel in past few years: In a cable sent from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department in Washington and the FBI, American Ambassador James Cunningham showed impressive knowledge in the Israeli crime world and expressed his concern over its impact in the United States.
In a document from May 2009 titled "Israel a promised land for organized crime?" Cunningham wrote that "Organized crime (OC) has longstanding roots in Israel, but in recent years there has been a sharp increase in the reach and impact of OC networks."
He mentioned the assassination of crime boss Yaakov Alperon, "only about a mile away from the embassy," and the killing of a 31-year-old Israeli woman by a stray bullet on the Bat Yam beach during a failed assassination attempt on a noted crime figure, noting that Israeli crime groups "have demonstrated their ability and willingness to engage in violent attacks on each other with little regard for innocent bystanders."
According to Cunningham, the Israel Police and the courts "have engaged in a vigorous campaign against organized crime leaders… but they remain unable to cope with the full scope of the problem."
He noted that many of the Israeli crime families' operatives hold foreign passports, "allowing them to move freely in European countries, most of which participate in the visa waiver program with the United States." He admitted that the embassy's attempts to prevent criminals from reaching the US are not always successful.
"Five or six crime families have traditionally dominated OC in Israel," Cunningham wrote, although the names and makeup of these syndicates have fluctuated in recent years. The Abergil, Abutbul, Alperon, and Rosenstein organizations are among the most well known, but recent arrests and assassinations have created a power vacuum at the top.
"New names such as Mulner, Shirazi, Cohen and Domrani have moved quickly to fill the gap. Other up-and-coming groups include the Harari, Ohana, and Kdoshim families. There are also a number of rival families active in the underworld of Israel's Arab sector."
The American ambassador admitted that "it is not entirely clear to what extent OC elements have penetrated the Israeli establishment and corrupted public officials."
He mentioned the arrest of former Minister Gonen Segev for trying to smuggle thousands of ecstasy pills into Israel, adding that the election of Inbal Gavrieli – a daughter of a suspected crime boss - to the Knesset in 2003 as a member of Likud "raised concerns about OC influence in the party's Central Committee."
Naturally, Cunningham is mostly concerned about the influence of Israeli organized crime on the US. "Given the volume of travel and trade between the United States and Israel, it is not surprising that Israeli OC has also gained a foothold in America," he wrote.
He noted that the embassy was "using every available tool to limit OC travel to the United States, but such efforts are not always successful."
One of the figures mentioned by the ambassador was Adam Abutbul, son of crime-family head Charlie Abutbul, who received a tourist visa to the US in June 2008. Several months later, the embassy received information from the Los Angeles Police Department that "he had traveled to the United States to carry out a hit and returned to Israel prematurely for his father's funeral." It should be noted that Charlie Abutbul did not die, but survived an assassination attempt in September 2008.
"It is fair to assume that many known OC figures hold valid tourist visas to the United States and travel freely," Cunningham wrote, adding that the embassy "has developed an extensive database and placed lookouts for OC figures and their foot soldiers." He did not elaborate.
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