Eight Israelis accused of kidnapping and robbing a Chinese national are in custody following a wide-ranging manhunt, the Israel Police announced on Thursday.
According to the police, the suspects, who wore hats identifying them as police, kidnapped the unidentified 49-year-old near the Golden Mall in Rishon LeZion on July 20, pulling him out of his vehicle and forcing him into a van.
After an investigation was opened, it emerged that the victim had worked as a middleman bringing foreign workers from China to Israel to work in the construction industry. He was robbed of around 700,000 shekels ($217,179), which the police said they believed to have been earmarked for the salaries of “dozens of migrant workers from China in the construction industry.”
A subsequent raid in Be'er Sheva led to the arrest of five suspects – identified as Avishai Marsha, 19, Pata Patchvili, 18, Anthony Buchbiner, 18, Shmuel Ezraev, 23, and Reuven Yossifov, 23, all residents of Ashkelon— and directed investigators to three additional suspects, two of whom were identified as Nehorai Elya, 20, from Ashkelon, and Timur Binyaminov, 26, from Bat Yam.
All were detained “on suspicion of kidnapping, robbery and assault in aggravated circumstances.” The stolen money was not recovered and a draft indictment was filed against seven of the suspects this week.
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“The fact that migrants tend to deal a lot with cash does make them an easier target for such things,” said Shira Abbo, spokeswoman of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
According to national broadcaster Kan, two policemen were indicted on charges of bribery and theft totaling hundreds of thousands of shekels from foreign workers in Tel Aviv in 2018. The police officers were engaged in a protection racket in which they threatened to repeatedly raid an apartment that a Chinese worker had turned into a gambling den and had also robbed a separate apartment used as a makeshift bank for foreign laborers.