Police break up int'l cocaine ring

Over 1.5 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated NIS 2b, seized in biggest drug bust in Israeli history.

Cocaine bust 248-88 (photo credit: )
Cocaine bust 248-88
(photo credit: )
An undercover investigation led by the Coastal Police and the Customs Authority, in cooperation with police from Peru and Spain, has led to the break-up of an international cocaine ring and the largest seizure of drugs in Israeli history. Over a ton and a half of cocaine, estimated to be worth NIS 2 billion, was seized in three raids around the world, which included the seizure of two shipping containers at foreign ports, the head of the Coastal Police's Central Unit, Dep.-Cmdr. Michael Shafshak, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The drugs were hidden in metal-crushing machines and packed in shipping containers in an effort to avoid detection. According to police, Moshe Elgrabli, 40, of Megadim, a former soccer linesman, allegedly headed the international smuggling network, and Morris Abdelhak, 51, of Kiryat Yam, headed operations on the ground in Peru. Elgrabli fled Israel and was on the run, police said, while Abdelhak was in custody in Peru, together with four Peruvian suspects. Shafshak described an enormous drug-running enterprise in which cocaine was meticulously hidden in the metal crushers and placed on vessels. In one case, a ship carrying 700 kilograms of cocaine left Peru, sailed to Chile, and passed through Spain, from which it was supposed to sail to Jordan. From there, the cocaine was probably meant to be smuggled into Israel, Shafshak said, but police stopped the shipment on October 7 in Valencia, Spain. "We had seen enough, and were ready to stop it there," he said. "We cooperated with the police force of every country the drugs passed through." Shafshak said the drugs were probably also headed for European, Middle Eastern, and African markets. Two days earlier, on October 5, a ship containing 300 kilograms of cocaine was stopped at a port in the Bahamas. On November 13, a planned third shipment of 550 kilograms was seized in Peru before smugglers had a chance to hide the drugs in the machines. "One kilogram of cocaine is worth $50,000, and that's before its weight is increased to raise its street value," Shafshak said. "This is a mortal blow to the cocaine market in Israel, and it will cause serious damage to markets around the world." In addition to the arrests in Peru, two suspects from Kiryat Yam were arrested on suspicion they were tied to the ring, a allegation the two deny. Their remand has been extended by seven days. Coastal Police chief Lt.-Cmdr. Roni Atiya praised his officers, saying, "Impressive technological abilities were used that significantly contributed to the investigation. This is a complex operation that required maximum coordination and precision between Central Unit officers and representatives of Israel Police abroad." Atiya thanked Haifa Customs agents for their role in the investigation. He described the smugglers as "immoral figures who chose to harm society. I'm glad police succeeded in preventing that."