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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Police arrested five contractors from central Israel on Monday, who they say spent around a year conspiring to steal sand and other minerals from state-owned lands, which was then sold at construction sites.
The illegal sand mining conspiracy was investigated by police from the highest levels of the Investigations and Intelligence Branch, along with officials from the Israel Lands Authority.
Police described the conspiracy as a grave case of “theft of public resources,” and said that they had made stopping illegal sand mining or dune harvesting, a major police priority.
The five arrested men could potentially face charges of conspiracy, theft, and more.
In February of last year, police arrested 20 suspects in a separate sand mining operation run out of the Yavne dunes along the coastline south of Tel Aviv. Those men also sold the sand to contractors for use in making cement and other building purposes.
Though it may sound counterintuitive to steal and sell sand in a desert region like the Middle East, sand mining is big business. For years it has been a major source of income for organized crime figures, especially those in remote coastal areas of the Lachish region in Israel’s South.
Southern mob kingpin Shalom Domrani is among a number of organized crime figures believed to have made millions of shekels through sand mining.
Sand mining also causes erosion, and can have a disastrous effect on local wildlife, especially in protected coastal areas and can lead to flooding by reducing natural sand barriers.