J'lem District Court approves extradition

The Jerusalem District Court in April approved the extradition of underworld kingpin Ze'ev Rosenstein to the US, where he is facing drug trafficking charges. Rosenstein, 50, was arrested in November 2004 following a joint Israeli-US investigation into his alleged smuggling of more than 700,000 Ecstasy pills into the United States. 'The US has an interest in trying the defendant, because while the [criminal] connection was made in Israel, it [the crime] was carried out entirely outside of Israel,' Judge Ya'acov Tsaban wrote in his decision. 'The drugs were distributed and meant for distribution in the US, the investigation began and was conducted there, most of the evidence is there, and most of the [drug] network members were tried there.' The US formally submitted a request to extradite Rosenstein in December, after a grand jury in Florida issued an indictment against him. The government agreed to the US extradition request after American officials said they would allow Rosenstein - believed to be a dominant force on the world Ecstasy market - to serve any future sentence in Israel. Rosenstein's attorney said that he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, a move that ended up delaying the extradition by over half a year. Rosenstein, who was being held in jail during his extradition hearings, denied the allegations against him. He refused to speak to the press at the Jerusalem courtroom, where family members, including his 13-year-old son - who celebrated his bar mitzva at the prison a day earlier - had converged for the ruling. The head of the police's Intelligence and Investigation Department hailed the ruling as an 'important step' in the fight against organized crime. 'The decision symbolizes the tight level of cooperation between Israel Police and the law enforcement system in the United States,' Cmdr. Dudi Cohen said. One of Israel's top mobsters, Rosenstein had eluded law enforcement officials for three decades, except for a short prison term for armed robbery in the 1970s. A year-and-a-half ago, suspected mob rivals tried to assassinate Rosenstein in central Tel Aviv in the seventh attempt on his life. While Rosenstein escaped the attack, three innocent bystanders were killed in the shooting. The attack catapulted the often-dormant issue of organized crime to the forefront of public debate, only to recede to the sidelines several months later. 'Today, after the decision was made to extradite Rosenstein to the US, the police's intelligence units are continuing with their war against organized crime,' Cohen said. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.