multipurpose crime 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski and AP [file])
The Israel Police revealed Sunday that it had made what is believed to be the largest drug bust in its history, after a late May raid led police to seize around NIS 100 million worth of Ecstasy and Ecstasy components.
A month-and-a-half-old gag order was lifted Sunday after district attorneys submitted a prosecutorial warning against three suspects believed to have been the masterminds behind a major drug ring.
One million Ecstasy tablets and several kilograms worth of raw material used to manufacture hundreds of thousands more tablets of the drug were discovered in a shipping container at the Haifa port at the end of May.
Police first received intelligence in mid-May that a suspicious shipping container was en route from Rotterdam, Holland to Haifa.
"Because of the underworld figures involved, we guessed that is was narcotics in the container, but we didn't know for sure," said Supt. Ziv Razieli, one of the lead investigators on the police's special investigative team formed to deal with the container.
It was only after the container reached the port that police were able to clandestinely enter the storage unit and examine its contents. There, police discovered the dangerous drug disguised as a furniture shipment.
"We planned exactly as we should have for the container's arrival. During the initial operation, we opened it in a controlled manner and only then were aware of the large amount of drugs we had recovered," said Razieli. "On the scene, we immediately realized that this was a really good catch."
Following the first peek in to the container, police lay low, building a case against the containers' suspected importers. "We did a situation assessment and decided to arrest the suspects according to our timetable, when we felt that we were ready," Razieli explained.
The police's careful work apparently paid off. Two suspects, both residents of the central region aged 58 and 65, were arrested by police. Another suspect, a 60-year-old Israeli citizen, was arrested in France and will most likely be extradited to Israel. Police say that they are confident that within the coming week, indictments will be delivered against the suspects.
In addition to nabbing the suspects, police also confiscated an estimated NIS 6.4 million in property and funds that they believed were acquired through drug trafficking. Of that sum, NIS 4.6m. in both domestic and foreign currency were seized from the suspects' bank accounts. In addition, police seized an industrial building in Bat Yam, two vehicles, and other assorted property.
Razieli explained that the seizures meant that the investigation had more than covered its own overhead. He estimated the cost to taxpayers of the investigation at between NIS 1-2m., yielding an over NIS 4m. surplus for future investigations.
But the real importance of the bust, Razieli said, was the impact on the local drug trade. All of the Ecstasy seized is believed by police to have been meant for the Israeli market.