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Police have seized 1.5 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated NIS 2 billion, in three raids targeting what is believed to be a major international cocaine ring, police revealed yesterday. Several Israelis from the Haifa area were arrested yesterday, in the wake of Israeli police and customs coordination with their Spanish and Peruvian counterparts.

Alleged ringleader Moshe Elgrably, a former soccer player and referee from Moshav Magadim, is still at large, and police believe he is abroad.

The investigation began about six months ago.

"Our assumption was that enormous quantities of drugs were coming in through the ports, and we began tracking known criminals and other figures," Central District Police Commander Roni Attiya said yesterday.

Police investigators and their South American and European colleagues discovered an international network allegedly run by Elgrably, 40. According to Shaul Ben Shmuel of the Coastal District's Central Unit, the ring was financed by Israelis working with locals, and distributed Peruvian drugs around the world.

The drugs were hidden inside metal shredders ordered by various fictitious companies. Moshe Abdelhaq, 54, of Kiryat Yam, known as "the welder," was responsible for welding lead rolls in place to seal the machines, which kept the drugs from being detected by x-ray machines at the ports. He was arrested in Peru.

On October 5, a cargo ship carrying 300 kilograms of pure cocaine was seized in the Bahamas. Two days later a ship carrying 675 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Barcelona, and two and a half weeks ago, a third ship carrying another half-ton of cocaine was seized in Peru.

Police say Elgrably was a partner in a produce store in Haifa and used his legitimate business interests as a cover for his trips abroad. Relatives yesterday said Abdelhaq has been divorced for 20 years and has lived in Peru for a long time, working with a package delivery company.