It was the biggest Ecstasy cache nabbed in Israel's history: approximately one million Ecstasy pills and dozens of kilograms of the raw material used to manufacture them were confiscated by the Police Central Unit of the police's coast division and the intelligence branch of the customs authority last month in the Haifa Port.
Three suspects are being held on suspicion of attempting to import the drug, worth more than NIS 100 million, for an Israeli crime organization.
The raid, kept under a gag order until yesterday, took place in May, when a container disguised as a furniture delivery from Holland, was found to contain the pills and MDMA, the raw material for making another million pills, for distribution in Israel. The three suspects picked up the drugs and the furniture in Holland, Belgium and France, and attempted to bring the container into Israel, using legitimate businesses and individuals with no criminal record.
According to Doron Samara, head of enforcement for Haifa customs, several suspicious containers, including the one containing the drugs, were checked by an advanced computerized system.
Samara said this was the largest drug bust in Israel's history. "In the past 137 kilograms of cocaine from Peru were caught, and in another case, 43 kilograms," he said.
Two of the suspects, Mahadifuk Shaharuk, 58, from Tel Aviv, who spent 12 years in a Turkish prison, and Shabatai Michaeli, 65, from Bat Yam, are in custody in Israel. Their remand has been extended eight times. The third suspect, Carmel Haba, 60, was arrested in France and is awaiting extradition. Police said they are not cooperating with the investigation.
Shaharuk is believed to have been in charge of buying the drugs in Europe and partly funding the purchase. Michaeli was to move the drugs from Europe to the container and smuggle them to Israel. Haba, who allegedly has connections with underworld figures in Europe, was to have arranged for the container, the purchase of the furniture, its import to Israel through a legitimate Dutch company and its receipt in Israel by an individual without a criminal record.
"The three worked as a skilled and professional crime ring," Chief Inspector Yariv Cohen, head of the investigative team, said. "There is no doubt they were supported by an Israeli crime ring. You don't sell such a quantity of Ecstasy to just anyone. You have to come with a crime organization and a respected name," he added.
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