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Monday, 1 August 2011

Organized crime figure Francois Abutbul was shot and killed at 1 A.M. yesterday at a gas station in Havatzelet Hasharon, north of Netanya

00:49 | ,

 He was on his way from Haifa to Netanya when he stopped for gasoline and was shot by a motorcyclist who apparently had been following him for several hours. When Abutbul stopped to refuel, the gunman shot him with ten bullets at close range.

Abutbul died en route to Laniado Hospital in Netanya.

Police arrived on the scene after receiving the initial report of the shooting, but once it became apparent that the incident involved one of Israel's most important crime figures, the case was transferred to the National Serious and International Crimes Division, which has been well-acquainted in recent years with Abutbul and his reputed crime family.

About two weeks ago, police warned Abutbul that he was the target of an assassination plot.

The Abutbul crime family retreated in 2002 when the family figurehead, Felix, was murdered in front of a casino he owned in Prague. Felix Abutbul's death was a serious blow to the family; he was not only the undisputed head of the family, but he also had the respect of other Israeli crime figures.

After Felix Abutbul's death, management of the family's business interests fell to his son, Assi, who employed violent means and made a number of enemies. Divisions also developed within the Abutbul family itself. In 2007, Assi Abutbul was arrested and ultimately convicted of organized criminal activity. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

During the same period, Francois Abutbul was detained on allegations of beating his wife. In July of that year, Francois Abutbul was convicted in that case in a plea agreement and sentenced to 22 months in prison, which he served in solitary confinement.

During Francois Abutbul's incarceration, organized crime organizations attempted to take control of the family's businesses. Restaurants they owned became the targets of arson attacks, and grenades were thrown at Abutbul. Organized crime groups in the Sharon region tried to rid the scene of the Abutbul organization.

Following Francois Abutbul's release from jail in December 2010, his adversaries - most notably Rico Shirazi and the Karajeh family - made it clear that Abutbul's hometown of Netanya would henceforth be out of bounds to him. He then set up residence in a luxury building in Ramat Gan, but despite warnings, he continued to engage in business dealings in Netanya and even started to renovate his restaurants which had been burned.

In January, Shirazi and two others were arrested after police received information that the three had met at a Netanya restaurant one day earlier and decided to kill Francois Abutbul. The suspects were later released without being charged.

Two weeks after the arrest of Shirazi and his associates, however, Francois Abutbul and another suspect were arrested on suspicion of planning Shirazi's murder. Police arrested Abutbul and the other suspect in an effort to lessen tension among Netanya's organized crime figures. Francois Abutbul had many enemies, and police are now trying to figure out who gunned him down.

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