Police and tax authorities took into custody dozens of top-dollar horses on Sunday, during a bust on a multimillion-shekel gambling ring that police say operated across northern Israel for the past several years.

Michael Shifshak, head of the northern branch of the YAMAR investigative unit, said Monday that one of the main suspects, who ran a horse ranch at Moshav Ben-Ami, poured millions of shekels into top-dollar breeding horses that he imported to Israel. Shifshak said the suspect also flew with some of the animals to Europe to take part in horse competitions, and that they discovered a number of trophies on the farm from contests in Europe.

On Monday, officers from the northern branch of the YAMAR investigative unit and the Tax Authority unit Yahalom seized 40 of the horses, as well as five cars and more than NIS 500,000 in cash during raids on the horse farm and the three gambling parlors in the North.

Police are now looking into the possibility that the gambling ring may have used the horses and their winnings to launder some of the mass amounts of cash they brought in over the better part of the past decade.

In June, the FBI announced the arrest of a senior member of Mexico’s Zeta drug cartel, which it suspects of laundering a million dollars per month in drug proceeds through quarter horse breeding and racing.

Shifshak said the gambling ring spent years pouring its illicit earnings into cars, houses, legal bank accounts and the more-than-50 horses he said cost between $75,000 to $200,000 each.

Shifshak said the gambling ring operated three Internet café gambling parlors in Ma’alot, Karmiel, and Nahariya.

Shifshak said police are also looking into cafés they suspect the gang ran in Haifa, Nazareth, and Safed.

Shifshak said that the operation was entirely Israeli-run, and the clientele was also domestic.

Shifshak would not say if the three men were involved in any other fashion in the Israeli underworld.

All three suspects – two residents of Moshav Ben- Ami ages 45 and 50 and a 75-year-old resident of Karmiel – were brought before the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where their remand was extended by five days.

The three suspects could face a combined 15 charges of gambling and money laundering.

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