First ‘protected witness’ testifies in drug-smuggling case

At Central District Court in Petah Tikva, man testifies against defendants charged with smuggling 108 kg. of drugs into Israel from Panama.

Surrounded by dozens of policemen at the Central District Court in Petah Tikva, the first person to be admitted into the witness protection program testified on Sunday against defendants charged with smuggling 108 kg. of drugs into Israel from Panama.
The North Star affair, as it is known, involves several major Israeli crime figures.
The protected witness, identified as “S.,” told the court he decided to turn state’s witness after being arrested at his home in August 2009 on suspicion of importing drugs and falsifying a document. During questioning, he told the court, he told one of the interrogators he was ready to talk.
“I’m not as pure as the driven snow,” he said in court. “I was a criminal. I did drug deals. But until now, I have never been an agent or a police source. My family and I were under threat and I was even kidnapped twice without justification. I was taken to an orchard, my house looked like a fortress and my family did not understand what was going on.”
S. said told the police he could give them information that would incriminate key underworld figures including Uri Luzon, a deputy of Amir Mulner, who allegedly runs cocaine and firearms operations in Tel Aviv, and members of the Karaje crime family in Netanya and Tel Aviv.
S. said that first he told them all he knew and only afterward did the police agree to sign a state’s witness agreement with him.
“It’s not the money I care about but the security of my family,” he said.
S. testified from behind a reinforced glass screen. Some 45 policemen were in the courtroom and snipers and other security personnel were posted outside the courthouse.
From the moment S. walked into the courtroom, the defendants shouted at him and called him names.
“Murderer, how many girls have you raped, how many girls have you seduced into taking drugs,” they yelled.
S. trembled as he took the stand and continually drank from a bottle of water.
“I will only tell the truth here,” he said.
S. testified that he had grown up in a city in the North and then gone abroad, where he was arrested for drug trafficking.
He was extradited to Israel, where he served a long jail term. He told Judge Varda Meroz that he took cocaine and was involved in a variety of crimes including gambling, drug trafficking, extortion and grey market loans.
The court temporarily adjourned during S.’s testimony to allow the prosecution and the attorneys for the defense to try to work out a plea bargain, Ynet reported.
However, the negotiations reportedly collapsed because the state demanded punishments for the defendants that their lawyers considered too harsh.
The witness-protection program came into being last year after the Knesset approved a law authorizing its creation.