Police Raid 'Black Market Bank' in Ashkelon

National organized crime investigation unit Lahav 433 yesterday raided the Change Best bureau de change in Ashkelon, as police claimed this was a black market bank for a criminal group allegedly led by Shalom Domrani.

Domrani, one of the police's top targets, himself was arrested, and his remand was extended by 8 days by the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.

The operation, code-named "Autumn Winds," saw 18 more of Domrani's alleged associates arrested over the course of the day.

The police suspect the "bank," said to be run since May 2007 by Domrani's nephew, violated the Prohibition of Money Laundering Act, processing funds amounting to millions of shekels. According to police, the activities of several "regular" clients of the "bank" were reported under false names, while laundered funds came partly from legal enterprises, and partly from criminal activities such as protection racket extorted from a variety of business.

The raids were carried out by 23 arrest teams in Moshav Otzem, where Domrani himself resides, as well as Ashkelon, Bat Yam and Rishon Letzion.

Some teams were accompanied by sappers; the total number of police personnel involved in the operation was over 220.

Orders to freeze the assets of some of the suspects were issued prior to the arrests. The operation yielded large amounts of confiscated property, including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and cars. The investigation is being carried out in cooperation with the financial department of the state prosecutor's office.