Police break up drug network that used the elderly as couriers

Solidified cocaine smuggled inside shirt buttons.

Following an intensive undercover investigation, police on Wednesday announced that they had arrested members of an Israeli drug network that used Amsterdam to smuggle cocaine from South America and a potent variant of hashish known as jaras from India. In what might appear to be a plot straight out of a movie, the network also allegedly used elderly Argentineans as couriers. The suspects were identified as Avraham Malachi, 39, of Netanya, whom police identified as the ringleader; Samuel Samuel, 48, originally from Lod and described as the go-between in Holland; Moshe Luver, 67, of Netanya, said to have recruited the Argentinean drug runners; Viteli Hanukyeb, 28, of Netanya, alleged to have organized the network's operations in India; and Asher Zurik, 20, Malachi's brother-in-law and the one responsible for helping the couriers to move around in South America and India. Conducted in coordination with South American and European police, the investigation uncovered remarkable methods used to hide the drugs, such as stashing just under 10 kilograms of cocaine in more than 1,900 buttons - a measure that was of no help to the elderly drug runner arrested last April at the airport in Lima, Peru. In December, police in Amsterdam uncovered 52kg. of Indian cannabis hidden in suitcases. The network allegedly recruited elderly drug runners, hoping their age would deflect suspicion. It was said to have paid three - Argentinean nationals named as Manuel Maria Mellone, 66; Gerardo Federico Harmeye, 68; and Justo Fernando Brito, 49 - € 5,000 for each smuggling run. The Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court extended the custody of the Israeli suspects until February 22.