Fresh charges brought against alleged members of El Al cocaine smuggling ring
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Fresh charges brought against alleged members of El Al cocaine smuggling ring

Suspects accused of bringing a total of 150 kilograms of the drug into Israel from South Africa

File photo of security personnel checking passengers' luggage at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, September 7, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
File photo of security personnel checking passengers' luggage at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, September 7, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Additional charges have been brought against seven men involved in a cocaine smuggling ring, in which security personnel working for the national El Al airline allegedly used their clearance to smuggle 150 kilograms of cocaine into the country through Ben Gurion International Airport.

Six fresh charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and importing a dangerous drug were brought against the men on Sunday, based on testimony by a state’s witness identified only as AA.

The defendants are Avi Peretz, David Dadon, Yaniv Hazan, Lidan Shatui, Asher Mesilti, Yaakov Felician and Rami Yogev.

Yogev, 56, is a former high-ranking El Al security liaison, who was in charge of the Israeli carrier’s security abroad. His position gave him access to restricted areas of Ben Gurion Airport and the ability to bypass standard security checkpoints.

Charges were initially brought against nine suspects in the case in January 2019. According to that indictment, the suspects brought a total of 150 kilograms of cocaine from South Africa into the country on 10 occasions over a period of several months.

Illustrative of cocaine (photo credit: CC BY-SA Valerie Everett, Flickr)
File: Illustrative photo of cocaine (CC BY-SA Valerie Everett, Flickr)

The drugs were allegedly put in hand luggage and smuggled past security in Johannesburg before being carried by a courier onto flights to Israel. At Ben Gurion, the hand luggage was allegedly handed off to Yogev as soon as the plane doors were opened and he then brought the bag past security and into Israel.

Yogev and three others — including ex-Shin Bet official Beno Shalom, who previously served as head of security for the Prime Minister’s Office — were arrested in November 2018 after drugs were discovered in the hand luggage of one of the suspects who had just arrived on a flight from Johannesburg.

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