Police marked a dubious first on Thursday, revealing the latest creativity in "pirate" industrial entrepreneurship. Israelis already have become familiar with pirate radio, pirate sand and pirate cable theft, but Jaffa residents now know that they have long been exposed to danger from a pirate gas distribution facility.
Police of the National Economic Crimes Unit (NECU) worked together with representatives of the National Infrastructures Ministry's oversight and safety department to conduct an operation to trap what police termed "gas offenders."
"They represented a clear and present safety risk to both consumers and to local residents," police said, referring to the suspects whom they emphasized operated their illegal - and dangerous - enterprise in densely-populated areas of Jaffa.
Police forces including members of the NECU, the Infrastructures Ministry and Yiftah Subdistrict police arrested three suspects on Thursday, concluding the undercover investigation undertaken by the NECU. The three, in their thirties and forties, are all suspected of crimes involving negligent handling of flammable materials.
Police believe they dealt in carbon gas without holding an operating license, a business that police emphasized endangered all those around them. Police also stressed the potential environmental risk of the "pirate" unlicensed facility.
Police also carried out extensive searches Thursday morning at a gas-filling facility on Rehov Salvador in Jaffa. Detectives said they think that for a long time, the suspects had been illegally dealing in the gas in a facility that was in a densely populated commercial and residential area.
They also carried out searches in an adjacent office building where, according to suspicion, the suspects ran the business end of the industry including marketing and bookkeeping operations.
Detectives recovered two two-ton gas storage containers as well as hundreds of assorted gas balloons of various types. The three suspects were being questioned, and are expected to face indictment on criminal charges in the near future.