(photo credit: Israel Police)
Surrounded by dozens of policemen at the Central District Court in Petah Tikva, the first person to be admitted into the witness protection program testified on Sunday against defendants charged with smuggling 108 kg. of drugs into Israel from Panama.
The North Star affair, as it is known, involves several major Israeli crime figures.
The protected witness, identified as “S.,” told the court he decided to
turn state’s witness after being arrested at his home in August 2009 on
suspicion of importing drugs and falsifying a document. During
questioning, he told the court, he told one of the interrogators he was
ready to talk.
“I’m not as pure as the driven snow,” he said in court. “I was a
criminal. I did drug deals. But until now, I have never been an agent or
a police source. My family and I were under threat and I was even
kidnapped twice without justification. I was taken to an orchard, my
house looked like a fortress and my family did not understand what was
S. said told the police he could give them information that would
incriminate key underworld figures including Uri Luzon, a deputy of Amir
Mulner, who allegedly runs cocaine and firearms operations in Tel Aviv,
and members of the Karaje crime family in Netanya and Tel Aviv.
S. said that first he told them all he knew and only afterward did the
police agree to sign a state’s witness agreement with him.
“It’s not the money I care about but the security of my family,” he said.
S. testified from behind a reinforced glass screen. Some 45 policemen
were in the courtroom and snipers and other security personnel were
posted outside the courthouse.
From the moment S. walked into the courtroom, the defendants shouted at him and called him names.
“Murderer, how many girls have you raped, how many girls have you seduced into taking drugs,” they yelled.
S. trembled as he took the stand and continually drank from a bottle of water.
“I will only tell the truth here,” he said.
S. testified that he had grown up in a city in the North and then gone abroad, where he was arrested for drug trafficking.
He was extradited to Israel, where he served a long jail term. He told
Judge Varda Meroz that he took cocaine and was involved in a variety of
crimes including gambling, drug trafficking, extortion and grey market
The court temporarily adjourned during S.’s testimony to allow the
prosecution and the attorneys for the defense to try to work out a plea
bargain, Ynet reported.
However, the negotiations reportedly collapsed because the state
demanded punishments for the defendants that their lawyers considered
The witness-protection program came into being last year after the Knesset approved a law authorizing its creation.