Less than a month since their arrest, four young chareidim were indicted earlier this week for trying to smuggle ecstasy pills into Israel from Switzerland. Their remaind was also extended. It is reported the avreich led the operation, enlisting the three others to assist.
The four were apprehended in Ben-Gurion Airport. Three of them live in Bnei Brak and one is a resident of Yerushalayim.
It is alleged that during September 2017, Yitzchak Kahana and Nachman turned to a 22-year-old man from Bnei Brak and together, they planned to smuggle ecstasy pills into Israel. Nachman and a youth from Bnei Brak decided they will find two couriers who will bring the suitcases from Europe to Israel. The young man from Bnei Brak was their connection.
According to the indictment, they purchased a SIM card with a Ukrainian number and a SIM card with an Israeli number to establish contact between them and the couriers. They also purchased a prepaid credit card and filled it with $1,160 so one would not be able to track the owner of the card.
In order to further blur the connection between them, the youngest, from Bnei Brak, Nachman and Yitzhak installed the “Telegram” application, which enables secret use of encrypted messages, which are erased thirty seconds after the announcement is read. It should be noted that the identity of Yitzhak Kahane and Nachman are not know to the police or to the State Attorney’s Office, and these are fictitious names.
After preparing the infrastructure, the young man from Bnei Brak turned to his colleague, an avreich in kollel most of the day, and asked him to recruit two chareidi men to serve as couriers. As part of his role as an “operator,” the young man asked the student to connect him to the courier, without revealing his identity. What about the reward? A relatively small sum of NIS 20,000 was paid for the entire work, both for locating the couriers and for carrying out the baggage transfers.
The avreich, who became an “operator,” contacted two of his acquaintances, yeshiva students from Jerusalem aged 20 and 23, to serve as couriers. The payment for the smuggling is also minor. NIS 2,500 for every suitcase that they smuggle from Europe to Israel.
According to the four defendants, they spoke with them about smuggling luxury watches, which they say explains the small amounts of money they will receive upon the realization of the import of suitcases. But in reality, the smuggled suitcase contained false bottoms and a large commercial amount of about 10 kg of drugs, including 32,863 ecstasy pills, as was reported by Chadrei Chareidim.
Following the plan, the young Bnei Brak corresponded with the 20-year-old courier from Jerusalem via encrypted messages using Telegram, with the Bnei Brak fellow calling himself David Davidson. On the eve of Rosh Hashana, the two couriers sent their passport photographs to Davidson via the telegraph to order tickets for them.
Air tickets were also ordered and sent via the telegraph. Davidson also transferred €300 to the courier from Jerusalem as payment for the hotel stay in Belgium. A week after Simchas Torah, the two flew to Belgium, but it turned out that the planning was not good enough, since the border authorities did not allow them to pass because they did not have an address where they were supposed to be put up. Hence, they were turned around and send back to Israel.
The investigation revealed that Davidson and the avreich kollel communicated feared the couriers might not wish to fly again but learned this was not so. Davidson handed over an envelope to the avreich which included two one-way tickets to Geneva Switzerland and 700 Swiss francs in cash for the hotel. Three hours before the flight on Friday, the couriers arrived at kollel in Bnei Brak and received the envelope and money.
On Sunday, three and a half weeks ago, the two flew to Switzerland, and two days later Davidson sent a message to the courier from Bnei Brak and ordered him and the courier from Jerusalem to go to room 240 in the Ibis Hotel, where they would receive the suitcase with the alleged watches. The couriers went to the room, but when there was no reply, so they sent an encrypted message to Davidson and they were told to wait in the hotel lobby.
A man who they did not know approached them in the lobby speaking Hebrew. He handed the suitcase to them, spoke to them in Hebrew, and wished them “good luck” and left. Davidson concluded that the couriers would pass the suitcase to the avreich in Bnei Brak and on to the avreich that included the suitcase upon their return to Israel, and the student would transfer it to him. At the end of the same week, the couriers flew back to Israel, with the suitcase with the drugs in their possession.
At Ben-Gurion Airport, the two couriers from Jerusalem and Bnei Brak were arrested when three sealed plastic bags containing 32,863 pills containing MDMA (ecstasy) were found in the suitcase. The bags containing the drug were removed at the bottom of the suitcase, with cloth separating them from the rest of the items.
Their remand in jail was extended time-to-time as the investigation proceeded and they have since been indicted. Attorney Miki Chova represents the avreich, releasing the following statement to the media. “My client claims complete innocence, we will soon receive the investigation materials, and then we will be able to respond to the evidence.” Adv. Osman Rubinger, from the office of Yaakov Weinroth, who represents the young man from Bnei Brak who called himself David Davidson, declined to comment at this stage.
Attorney Orit Chayoun and attorney Kochavi, representing the 20-year-old courier from Bnei Brak, who claims innocence. Chayoun is quoted telling Chadrei Chareidim “the indictment clearly shows the cynical exploitation of innocent yeshiva students, especially in the case of defendant 3, who flew abroad to bring watches for only NIS 2,500.” They added that “the fact that there is no dispute that Respondent 3 has again changed his mind and refused to bring the watches with him,” as the police claimed in court hearings and even reported in my room, “was not reflected in the tendentious indictment. So instead of acting against the exploiters, the drug dealers, the police and the prosecution chose to indict the exploited.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)