Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday sentenced Rami Yogev, a former senior security official at national airline El Al, to 12 years in prison for his part in a smuggling ring that brought 150 kilograms of cocaine into the country.
Yogev, 57, was also given an additional 24 months of probation.
Judge Morechai Levy said at the sentencing that it was “one of the most serious drug incidents the country has ever known.”
The defendant, he said, “seriously damaged the public’s trust in gatekeepers.”
Yogev was charged in 2019 along with eight other suspects. He was convicted in a plea bargain, admitting that while he didn’t know what was in the suitcases carrying the smuggled drugs, he had “closed his eyes” to that possibility that they might be there.
He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime and three counts of smuggling 18 kilograms of drugs. A further 14 charges were wiped from the indictment.
Yogev had worked as a high-ranking El Al security liaison who was also 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, prosecutors said.
One of the nine suspects turned state’s witness in the case.
According to the indictments, 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.
The drugs were 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 handed off to Yogev as soon as the plane doors were opened and he then brought the bag past security and into Israel.
Prosecutors wrote of Yogev that he “blatantly and grossly violated the trust given to him as part of his job.”
Yogev and three others were arrested in November 2019 after drugs were discovered in the hand luggage of one of the suspects, who had just arrived on a flight from Johannesburg.
Details of the case were revealed after a Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court judge rejected a police request for a gag order.