(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC)
The Tel Aviv branch of the YAMAR investigative unit announced on Wednesday that
they had busted a multi-billion shekel, Israel-based international gambling
ring. According to police, the case is one of the largest money laundering and
illegal gambling investigations ever carried out by Israeli law enforcement. It
is expected to deal a serious blow to one of the main sources of revenue for
Israeli organized crime over the past few years.
The year-long undercover
case known as hagiga b’reshet (web party) has centered around a website called
Don- Bet which used word of mouth to bring in members who could bet on a wide
range of sporting events and card games. According to police the website brought
in at least NIS 6 to 7 billion over the past five years.
The case became
public on Wednesday morning, when hundreds of YAMAR detectives, led by Tel Aviv
Ch.-Supt. Gadi Eshed, joined by investigators from the tax authority and
antifraud task force, carried out dozens of raids at houses, tech support
centers and money changing stores across the country. Over the course of the day
they arrested 55 people, around half of whom were to be brought for remand
extensions Wednesday night.
Police said the suspects face charges of
money laundering, running an illegal gambling operation, conspiracy to commit a
crime and tax evasion.
During the raids, police said they also seized
cars, real estate, and hundreds of bank accounts worth tens of millions of
More than a simple website, the operation worked with a clear
hierarchy of money couriers; mainly taxi drivers, as well as tech support
workers, enforcers, shareholders and account managers who operated databases of
gamblers. The massive revenues were then laundered in Israel through money
changers and real estate.
Eshed said Wednesday that the role of the
gambling ring as regards organized crime in Israel was similar to the Trade
Bank, which collapsed in 2002 after a former employee embezzled over a quarter
billion shekel in fictitious payments, largely to figures in Israel’s “gray
In an attempt to throw off investigators, gamblers would use
their credit cards to place bets on sites based outside of Israel, though the
headquarters was in the country. The site was only open to people who were
invited by fellow gamblers.
On Wednesday, Eshed said the network served
as a vital source of revenue for local organized crime families and that he has
no doubt the arrests will deal “a painful blow” to their operations.
Wednesday, donbet.com had splashed a message across its homepage “Dear user, the
site is being upgraded. We apologize for the inconvenience, please try again in
a few minutes.”