Police bust illegal online gambling ring

7 people arrested, 18 detained for questioning for allegedly operating illegal gambling Web sites that earn millions of shekels per year that are then "laundered."

gambling 88 (photo credit: )
gambling 88
(photo credit: )

Seven people were arrested and 18 were detained for questioning on Tuesday morning for allegedly operating illegal gambling Web sites that earn millions of shekels per year that are then "laundered."

International and Serious Crimes Unit detectives together with the elite Gidonim Unit - the operational arm of the Israel Police's Lahav 433's unit, the so-called "Israeli FBI," which opened shop on January 1 - raided the suspects' homes, Play 2 Bet's Tel Aviv's offices and K.G. Money Changers' office in Ramat Gan.

The remands of four of the suspects were extended until Sunday. The International and Serious Crimes Unit's undercover investigation began after the Northern Fraud Squad received information that the "Play 2 Bet" Web site has been offering illegal gambling.

Police said they found that the site's earnings were routed through K.G. Money Changers, and then either laundered domestically or transferred overseas. Police also believe that members of crime syndicates used Play 2 Bet to launder profits from other illegal enterprises. Investigators described a complex system in which the bets were placed through regional and group leaders. Access to the site was via a "closed" list; each gambler received a personal log-in name and password after placing a significant down payment to cover their initial bets.

The Web site's managers did not accept credit cards. Once a week, police said, messengers would visit each gambler to either pick up cash or to pay winners. The site allowed a number of types of wagers; most involved sports, including bets on halftime scores, number of yellow and red penalty cards, and scoring on penalty kicks.

Bets, police said, could be placed for sums ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of shekels per week. 

Police emphasized that the site's operators "had an interest in influencing the results of games. One of the suspects was already convicted in a separate investigation of charges involving bribery and threats against players of the Hapoel Beersheba soccer team and of attempting to influence the results of matches.

The site operated 24 hours a day from its Tel Aviv headquarters, but its server was in Europe - although police would not say in which country.