Ten Israelis, most of them Chareidim, including three minors, were arrested in Europe last week in the cities of Vienna, Copenhagen and London for attempting to smuggle dozens of kilograms of Khat in their suitcases.
Two 19-year-old Chareidi girls from Jerusalem and a 17-year-old yeshivah bochur were arrested in Copenhagen, Denmark for attempting to smuggle Khat into the country, Chareidim10 reported. Each one had over 20 kilograms in their possession.
The yeshivah bochur doesn’t speak English and the investigators are speaking to him with the help of Google Translate. Rabbi Yitzchok Loewenthal, the Chabad shaliach in Copenhagen, has become involved in the case.
According to a Mako report on Sunday, in recent years Israeli criminal organizations have discovered the financial potential of Khat and began renting land on settlements throughout Israel and paying farmers to grow Khat for them. In the past three years, the criminal organizations have operated dozens of networks of Khat smugglers from Israel to Europe.
There is great demand for Khat in Europe and one kilogram can be sold for between $1,000 – $1,500, which means that 30 kilograms of Khat which a young Israeli smuggles into Europe are worth between $30,000 – $45,000, with most of the money ending up in the pockets of the criminals. Police investigators believe that criminal organizations are pocketing $72 million every year from smuggling Khat.
Israeli police say that criminal organizations employ hundreds of young Israelis to smuggle Khat from Israel into Europe, ages 17 – 40. “The criminals take advantage of the financial situation of yeshivah students and young Ethiopians in order to smuggle Khat into Europe without revealing to them…[the dangers involved]” an Israeli police investigator said. “They take advantage of their naivete in order to make a lot of money on their backs.”
In the past year, four Chareidi Israelis, two females and two males have been arrested in Denmark for smuggling Khat. In their cases, they received light sentences of only ten days in prison, although in actuality they were in prison for about two months due to the time it took to complete the investigations, the trials and the deportation proceedings.
Six Chareidi Israelis are in prison in France for smuggling Khat, with some already in jail for a half a year with their trials not yet completed. France also sentenced Khat smugglers to light sentences in the past but as the incidents increased its policy changed. The incidents of smuggling Khat are now being handled by an investigative judge who has up to a year to investigate each case.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry reported that Israeli operators are convincing young Israelis to pay for their first trip abroad by smuggling Khat. In the past, the Foreign Ministry stated that most of the young Israelis arrested are from struggling families who have dropped out of educational frameworks and who are easily taken advantage of by the operators.
“The Foreign Ministry has information of over 90 Israelis who were arrested in similar circumstances since November 2018. Some of them are still imprisoned, including an Israeli who was sentenced to 10 years of jail in Turkey,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Foreign Ministry has published numerous warnings to young Israelis to resist the temptation of smuggling Khat “because it could end in a prolonged prison term in a foreign country, steep [legal] expenses for the family and emotional suffering to the detainee.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)