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In a blow to law enforcement authorities in their battle against organized crime, alleged mob boss Shalom Domrani was released to house arrest Friday just three days after he was arrested on money laundering charges in a raid on what police say is the South's largest criminal organization.
Police came to the decision to release Domrani after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to hold him in custody.
Domrani and seven other suspects had been arrested on suspicion of laundering more than NIS 10 million through a front currency exchange business in Ashkelon.
Until Tuesday's arrest, Domrani lived in a walled, heavily secured mansion in Moshav Otzem, near Ashkelon, surrounded by CCTV cameras and patrolled by security guards.
Police consider him to be the most powerful organized crime boss in the South and kept tabs on Domrani's every move with the help of a surveillance balloon permanently stationed above his home.
Tuesday's operation, in which the National Crimes section of the Lahav 433 anti-organized crime unit raided the Best Change establishment in Ashkelon, followed an undercover investigation that lasted for over a year, police said. The business allegedly operated as a currency service that formed a part of the financial arm of the crime organization linked to Domrani.
According to police, the exchange business has been controlled since May 2007 by a cousin of Domrani, and was used to launder more than NIS 10m., thereby acting as the organization's "bank."
Domrani, 34, is the son of an Ethiopian-born father and an Israeli sabra mother. He grew up in Ashkelon's tough immigrant Shimshon neighborhood.
In the mid-1990s, Domrani was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to five years in prison.
He sentence was increased by 30 months after he was found guilty of attempting to extort a contractor from behind bars, and linked to a car bomb targeting the contractor. Domrani was released in 2002.
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