Israelis who testify against organized crime figures may soon find themselves living under a new identity in Budapest or other cities in Hungary.
According to an agreement reached between Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Hungarian Interior Minister Monika Lamperth following a meeting in Budapest on Thursday, Israelis who enter the soon-to-be-established witness protection program could receive asylum and a new life there.
Ezra, who arrived in Budapest on Thursday for a three-day visit, was scheduled to continue on to Ukraine at the invitation of its Interior Ministry, but canceled his trip due to political developments at home.
Ezra and Lamperth agreed to enhance the level of cooperation between the countries in fighting crime and terrorism. Ezra said he would arrange for teams of counterterror experts to visit Hungary and train security forces there.
Lamperth spoke with Ezra at length about the increase in Israeli involvement in organized crime in Eastern Europe. The Israel Police also has recently noted an increase in the "exportation" of crime to countries such as Hungary. Jailed underworld kingpin Ze'ev Rosenstein owns a casino in Hungary, and the Tel Aviv-based Mousli crime family also owns one.
Lamperth told Ezra that Hungary supports Israel's request to join Europol - the European law enforcement organization that supervises criminal intelligence and facilitates contacts between member countries. Israel is currently waiting for Europol to conclude its inspections of its police capabilities.
Ezra was accompanied on his visit by Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, his liaison with the police, and Asst.-Cmdr. Amos Ya'acov, head of the Border Police in the North. Ya'acov's trip with Ezra as a reward for his participation in the evacuation of the Gaza Strip. Yaacov, who commanded the Ha'emek Brigade, was responsible for the difficult evacuation of Neveh Dekalim and the standoff at the settlement's main synagogue.
Ya'acov was not the only police officer to be rewarded for his involvement in disengagement. In September, Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi was accompanied to the Interpol General Assembly in Berlin by Lt.-Cmdrs. Aharon Franco and Hagai Dotan, the police's overall evacuation commanders.
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