Telegrass Weed Marketplace Founder Apprehended After Escape Attempt

Amos Dov Silver fled from the airport just before he was supposed to be extradited to Israel from Ukraine

Amos Dov Silver in Jerusalem in 2014, August 13, 2014.
Emil Salman

Amos Dov Silver, the founder of the online weed marketplace Telegrass, who escaped from the authorities in Ukraine Friday, has been taken into custody in the Ukrainian city of Uman, the Israel Police announced. According to the statement, Silver, who fled from the airport just before he was supposed to be extradited to Israel, was arrested after a manhunt by the Ukrainian police in cooperation with the Israeli police and their Russian attaché.

The statement added that a delegation of officers from the police’s intelligence and investigations division was to head to Ukraine on Saturday night to coordinate his extradition.

An initial inquiry found that Silver managed to escape from the Kiev’s Boryspil Airport after checking into his flight to Israel and going through security. He was seen in the airport’s duty free area before he disappeared.

On Thursday the Ukrainian Supreme Court rejected Silver’s appeal against his extradition to Israel to stand trial for running a crime organization. On Thursday, his wife, Gali Silver, posted a video clip in which she said that the Kiev police had taken her husband to court from a local hospital where he was being treated for throat problems.

“1-0 to the Israel Police. They decided to extradite him,” Gali Silver said in the video she posted before reports of her husband’s escape. In another video posted by Silver himself, he claims that his hasty release from the hospital and transfer to the courthouse and the change in the presiding judges were all done due to pressure from Israel.

Uri Korb, Silver’s attorney, said Friday: “Amos was arrested last night, during a conversation I was having with him, by a body called the ‘secret service’ in Ukraine and was physically taken from the clinic where he had been hospitalized. We were not told where he was taken and what his medical condition was. Amos Silver is a moral man ... all of Silver’s actions were done to help others while making sure to hurt no one. If he is extradited to Israel, Amos Silver will fight in court for the values in which he believes and he will prove his innocence.”

Silver, who launched Telegrass in 2017, was arrested in March, together with 42 others. The police suspect them of running and financing a crime organization, money laundering and tax evasion, as well as trafficking in cocaine, MDMA, Ecstasy, hashish and marijuana.

The network founders say it consists of 4,000 drug distributors who provide “quality and varied merchandise to some 200,000 consumers.”

Silver, who lived in Safed, served time in prison for selling of recreational drugs; after his release in 2017 he moved to the United States.

According to the police, the network provided a platform for some 2,000 drug dealers in Israel and abroad who sold drugs to tens of thousands of users for hundreds of millions of dollars. The police believe that the suspects did not sell the drugs physically but provided the platform. The investigation revealed that alleged traffickers would pay Telegrass for the right to use it based on the quantities they sold. The police say that each trafficker paid thousands of shekels a month in commission. The network’s activities took place in Ukraine, Germany and the United States.