gambling car seizure.
(photo credit: Israel Police)
A massive online gambling ring was broken up by the Israel Police and the Tax Authority on Monday.
The operation was jointly handled by the police's specialist Lahav 433 unit, Tax Authority investigators, state prosecutors and the Money Laundering Prohibition Authority.
Over 300 police officers and Tax Authority officials raided the homes of 37 suspects across the country, taking dozens of gamblers in for questioning, and seizing assets worth tens of millions of shekels.
Twenty court orders authorizing the Tax Authority to seize the vehicles and assets of suspects had been made available before the raid, and 160 bank accounts have been frozen.
"We employed techniques to monitor the Web site that are very similar to eavesdropping," a police source told The Jerusalem Post.
In a statement released on Monday, police described the ring as a "pirate sports gambling industry that has taken in more than NIS 340 million since 2007." "Internet gambling is one of the severe crime phenomena among Israeli crime organizations," police added. "It brings with it other forms of serious crimes, like aggravated extortion, violence, money laundering, tax offenses, and theft of moneys from public funds."
An elaborate hi-tech support network enabled the site's ongoing operation, police said, including a Web site construction team, a technical support team, and betting agents.
"Millions of shekels in clean profit were made by the Web site's operators," police said. "Between April 2007 and June 2009, 70 million visits were recorded on the Web site, mostly by gamblers."
Over the past year, a team of state prosecutors and investigators from the Tax Authority and police plotted to strike a blow to illegal Internet gambling rings.
Police said Monday's raids were the result of the first undercover investigation led by the Joint Intelligence Center (JIC).
In March 2007, the government set up the JIC and tasked it with providing information to various police and Tax Authority task forces investigating crime organizations.
The center is based at the Intelligence Branch of the Israel Police headquarters in Jerusalem. It includes representatives from the police, Tax Authority and Money Laundering Prohibition Authority.