Police bust crime-ring in Ashdod

Linkage between organized crime, local gov't is "worrying and dangerous," southern police chief says.

Police bust Ashdod crime-ring (photo credit: Courtesy Ashdod Police)
Police bust Ashdod crime-ring
(photo credit: Courtesy Ashdod Police)
Detectives raided the addresses of 19 organized crime suspects and a senior Ashdod Municipality worker on Monday morning following a major undercover investigation.
Police and Tax Authority officials gathered evidence that pointed to the existence of a hierarchical crime organization that profits from illegal gambling, police said.
Proceeds totaled tens of millions of shekels, police added. Protection money extracted from businesses, sometimes with violence, was also a major alleged source of income for the organization.
During the investigation, suspicions emerged that an Ashdod Municipality employee was on the mob’s payroll, helping the alleged criminals launder funds and ensuring that they won public tenders.
“The evidence points to an organized, systematic and continuous connection and exploitation of contacts with a municipality worker to promote the objectives of the crime organization and gain profit,” police said.
For the first time, police and prosecutors will make use of Clause 4 of the Organized Crime Law, which tackles cooperation between criminals and public workers, and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Police say the use of the law is unprecedented, and a sign of things to come when dealing with crime organizations “and their wrongful connections with public workers.”
During Monday’s raids, officers searched the suspect’s home and seized a million shekels in cash, as well 11 luxury vehicles. Assets and properties worth tens of millions of shekels were frozen by police.
“This is a sad day for all lawabiding citizens regarding the wrongful connection between wealth and power,” Cmdr. Yossi Prienti, head of the police’s southern district, said following the operation.
He described the linkage between a mob outfit and a local government employee as “worrying and dangerous. It has kept me up at nights, and should set off warning lights for us all.”