4 men accused of facilitating gambling

State Attorney's Office says men distributed pre-paid gambling cards worth around $15 million for use on gambling websites.

September 15, 2011 03:54
2 minute read.
[illustrative photo]

Gambling betting chips 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

The State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday against four men accused of helping to organize gambling, money laundering and tax evasion.

Yoel Azari, Yair Azari, Meir Mizrachi and Golan Shaul are accused of distributing prepaid gambling cards worth around $15 million for international gambling websites. The card sales netted the defendants around NIS 4 million.

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The gambling sites issue the prepaid cards in order to evade Israeli authorities.

Gambling is prohibited in Israel – with the notable exceptions of the National Lottery and the Israeli Commission for Sports Betting.

Since 2007, it has also been illegal for Israeli credit card companies to deal with online gambling.

However, Internet gambling remains so popular that Victor Chandler’s site even offers services entirely in Hebrew – although Israeli ISPs are banned by law from connecting to it.

So though both the Victor Chandler and Stan James websites are based and operate abroad, Israeli gamblers cannot use their credit cards to sign up.

According to the indictments, filed by State Attorneys Yair Goichman and Ben-Ami Cohen, the four defendants obtained thousands of cards and sold them under the auspices of a company, MYM Ltd, to kiosks and individuals around the country, who then sold them to gamblers.

The defendants also transferred large sums of money of almost $9 million from the card sales to Victor Chandler and Stan James.

However, most of the income was not reported to the tax authorities, and according to the state around $10 million was deposited into several foreign bank accounts.

The indictments came after what the State Attorney’s Office described as a “complex covert and overt operation” by the police’s Lahav 433 special unit.

In a statement, the State Attorney’s Office said the investigation and indictments demonstrate “another step in the economic enforcement against the Internet gambling phenomenon” and added that further indictments may be filed against others involved in this case.

This is not the first time that international gambling companies have come up against strict Israeli anti-gambling laws. In 2007, the British owner of Victor Chandler, Michael Carlton, was detained during a trip to Israel.

Judge Avraham Heiman in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court later ruled that Carlton and Victor Chandler had violated laws banning the advertising of gambling.

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