Telegrass Drug Ring Founder Flees Police in Kiev Airport After Extradition Announced

Amos Dov Silver lost his extradition appeal - and while arrangements were being made to bring him back to Israel, evaded guards and escaped

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

Police announced Friday morning that Amos Dov Silver, founder of the online drug distribution network Telegrass, has escaped from detainment in Ukraine after it was decided that he would be extradited to Israel.

In March, the Israel Police arrested 42 people in connection to Telegrass, a group run on the encrypted Telegram platform in which users could buy and sell drugs such as marijuana, hashish, cocaine and ecstasy. Silver, the alleged leader of the ring, was arrested in Ukraine.

The high court in Kiev rejected Silver's extradition appeal Thursday ahead of his trial for running a criminal organization. Police said he managed to elude his guard while arrangements for his extradition were being made.

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An initial inquiry found Silver managed to escape the airport after checking into his flight to Israel and going through security. Israel Police failed to send an escort for Silver in time, and it is said he evaded Kiev policemen at the Duty Free. 

Security forces are currently searching the area using a photo taken several minutes before Silver vanished, and believe it is only a matter of time before Silver is found.

Silver's wife, Gali, told Haaretz that she does not know if he succeeded in escaping, and said in a video Thursday that Silver was released by Kiev police from a local hospital, where he was being treated for throat problems, and that she took Silver to his hearing at the courthouse.

"One to nothing to the Israel Police," Silver said in the video, which she uploaded before her husband's escape was announced, "they decided to extradite him." In the video, Amos Dov Silver claims that his release from the hospital, his court summons and changes made to the panel of judges were all done at Israel's behest.

Police said that every member of the Telegrass ring had a specific job and was paid in cash, bitcoin or with drugs, while disguising the source of the money. Those arrested are suspected of running an organized crime ring, money laundering and tax offenses, police said. The organization had its own unit for internal oversight and a spokesperson's department, said police.

Minors also bought drugs through Telegrass, police said. During the raids conducted at the same time as the arrests, police found money, drugs and technology used by the group to run the drug ring over the internet. Telegrass is suspected of selling hundreds of millions of shekels and tens of tons of drugs over the years.