In raids in the Central District on Monday morning police arrested 20 suspects they say made millions running a massive illegal sand mining operation in the Yavne dunes.

The men were arrested following a drawn-out undercover investigation by officers from Lahav 433 – The National Crime Unit, police said Monday. Along with investigators from the Israel Lands Authority, police investigators spent months performing surveillance on contractors and other suspects they said illegally mined hundreds of truckloads of sand from the seaside outside Yavne.

The men who ran the operation later sold the sand and other minerals mined from the dunes to customers across Israel, police said.

Illegal sand mining is highly-profitable and for years has been popular in the Lachish district, especially in remote beach areas stretching from Ashkelon to Yavne and beyond. The practice can cause serious damage to nature areas and worsen erosion in addition to the illicit money it brings into the black market.

Organized crime figures, including – allegedly – Ashkelon-based Shalom Domrani, have made big money selling truckloads of the illegally-harvested sand to contractors across Israel to make cement and for other construction uses.

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