An Israeli diamond smuggler posed as a commercial pilot to skirt customs and police in South Africa, en route to Israel with smuggled diamonds, police said Monday as details of the case were made public.
The smuggler’s method was revealed on Monday, when the Lahav 433 police anti-organized crime unit and Tax Authority investigators announced that they had uncovered a ring that conspired to traffick tens of millions of shekels worth of diamonds from South Africa to Israel over the past few years.
Police added that the ring made dozens of smuggling runs between South Africa and Israel in recent years, before they were caught last month when one of the men was stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport and taken in for questioning.
The network involved several Israelis, including one who used fake documents to pose as an airline pilot in order to pass through customs in South Africa en route to Israel, police said.
The charges the suspects could face include money laundering, tax evasion, and charges related to smuggling offenses.
One of the suspects was detained for questioning on Monday morning at his office and is being investigated.
Another suspect was detained in early July, but his name cannot be published due to a gag order secured by police.
The investigation is still under way, police said, adding that they have cooperated with authorities in South Africa and that they believe there are other suspects involved in the ring, although it is unclear how many. They also would not say if the suspects are in Israel or South Africa.
The suspects include men who bought the diamonds to sell back in Israel or elsewhere and others who smuggled on a much smaller, not wholesale level, they said.