(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC)
As the prone continued in one of the biggest international gambling and
money-laundering sting operations in the state’s history, the Tel Aviv
Magistrate’s Court remanded 15 out of 16 suspects brought before it on Thursday
to four days in custody.
The last suspect fell ill, and according to some
reports had an epileptic seizure in court, and was raced to a hospital. The
court also later ordered him released to house arrest in light of his precarious
The yearlong undercover case known as hagiga b’reshet
(Web party) has centered around a website called Don-Bet which used word of
mouth to bring in members who could bet on a wide range of sporting events and
According to police, the website brought in at least NIS 6
billion to 7b. over the past five years.
An army of attorneys fought
unsuccessfully to get the other 15 suspects released, at least to house arrest.
They argued that not all of the defendants could be the leaders of the alleged
scheme, and the court should therefore release almost all of them, since most
are only suspected of ancillary involvement. The court recognized this and said
that a later point, it might make sense to distinguish between the suspects, but
at this stage, it is too early to expect the police to have made such
distinctions, especially in light of the sophisticated nature of the
The case became public on Wednesday morning, when hundreds of
YAMAR detectives, led by Tel Aviv Ch.- Supt. Gadi Eshed, joined by investigators
from the Tax Authority and anti-fraud task force, carried out dozens of raids at
houses, tech support centers and money changing stores across the country. Over
the course of the day they arrested 55 people, around half of whom were brought
for remand extensions Wednesday night.
Police said the suspects face
charges of money laundering, running an illegal gambling operation, conspiracy
to commit a crime and tax evasion. During the raids, police said they also
seized cars, real estate and hundreds of bank accounts worth tens of millions of
More than a simple website, the operation worked with a clear
hierarchy of money couriers; mainly taxi drivers, as well as tech support
workers, enforcers, shareholders and account managers who operated databases of
gamblers. The massive revenues were then laundered in Israel through money
changers and real estate. In an attempt to throw off investigators, gamblers
would use their credit cards to place bets on sites based outside of Israel,
though the headquarters was in the country. The site was only open to people who
were invited by fellow gamblers.
Defense attorneys slammed the testifying
police officers for lack of evidence, trying to get them to reveal the contents
of the classified report they submitted to the court. The police would only
confirm that they had large amounts of evidence based on wiretaps, which had
been submitted to the court. The court declared that there was already enough
material evidence at this stage to to conclude that a conviction was
On Wednesday, Eshed said the network served as a vital source
of revenue for local organized crime families and that he has no doubt the
arrests will deal “a painful blow” to their operations.
donbet.com had a message reading “Dear user, the site is being upgraded. We
apologize for the inconvenience, please try again in a few minutes,” splashed
across its homepage.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.