J'lem: 6 nabbed for peddling strange ‘energy drink’

Police seize 15,000 bottles drink made from two illegal extracts of the khat leaf.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 21, 2012 05:31
1 minute read.
Bottles of Green Energy that were recently taken

bottles of Green Energy that were recently confiscated 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Jerusalem District Police)

 
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Jerusalem police have arrested six men for selling an energy drink made from two illegal extracts of the khat leaf – pronounced gat in Hebrew.

Police seized 15,000 bottles of “Green Energy,” a drink sold widely in convenience stores across Jerusalem, and arrested six people, including the distributors and the owner of a storage facility, over the weekend.

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On Monday the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended their remand until Thursday.

Khat is a plant native to North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that is traditionally chewed to produce a mild euphoria. It also acts as an appetite suppressant. The practice is particularly widespread in Yemen.

In Israel, khat is legal and is found in both leaf form and some natural juices. However, concentrated extracts, which are much more potent, are illegal.

Undercover police bought bottles of the drink and sent it for testing at an internal lab. The tests revealed that it contained two illegal khat extracts.

In addition to the arrests, police also closed a 200-dunam farm where the company grew its own khat, called Gat Eden.



Sup. Dotan Garelik said Green Energy gave users the “feeling of a high” but also sensations of paranoia. It was also used as a major appetite suppressant, especially by women. He said the company was making approximately NIS 8,000 per day in profits. The Tax Authority is investigating whether the company paid the appropriate taxes.

Garelik added that police were also investigating whether convenience store owners knew the drink contained illegal substances. Distribution began a few months ago, mostly in Jerusalem, although the company had plans to expand it country-wide.

Attorney Yoram Halevy, who represents one of the suspects, said the businessmen were totally transparent with their accounts and “didn’t act as criminals.” He pointed out that the Knesset’s War on Drugs Committee had discussed khat-based drinks in June and did not find anything illegal.

The issue of whether or not khat drinks, a relatively recent trend, contain illegal substances, has been widely reported by the Israeli media.

“This was a populist attempt by police to capture headlines,” Halevy said.

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