Israeli sailor held in Colombia accused of smuggling 234 kilograms of cocaine

Israel’s consul speaks to Roy Erez, who claims he was forced by pirates to transport a man he didn’t know on board his ship

Israeli sailor Roy Erez. (Facebook)
Israeli sailor Roy Erez. (Facebook)

Colombian authorities say they are holding an Israeli sailor on suspicion of drug trafficking after more than 200 kilograms of cocaine were found on board his yacht last week.

Roy Erez, 39, was arrested while sailing from Panama to Jamaica as part of a trip around the world.

Erez’s sister said last week that he told her he was forced by pirates to transport a Colombian passenger he didn’t know, adding that she suspected the passenger was a wanted criminal.

He was arrested along with the Colombian man and taken to the Colombian island of San Andres, off the Nicaraguan coast.

The country’s navy said 234 kilograms (515 pounds) of cocaine were found aboard the vessel, Hebrew-language media reported Sunday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement Sunday that Erez was in San Andres and being interrogated by Colombian authorities.

“Israel’s consul in Bogota, Yuval Sharabi, spoke with him on the phone and made sure that he was okay,” the statement added.

In a Facebook post last Tuesday, Karina Erez Azoulay recounted the drama that befell her brother as he sailed from Panama during a round-the-world voyage on his sailing boat.

Azoulay has been in contact with her brother during his trip using text messages sent via a satellite phone.

Erez, she said, had been in Panama where he visited the local Chabad house and agreed to take on two Israeli passengers. After three days of sailing, he dropped the pair off in Panama and then set off alone for Jamaica.

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At some point while he was out at sea, a fishing boat, apparently operated by pirates, caught up with him and forced him at gunpoint to take on a man he had never met before.

“Fearing for his life, he was forced to agree,” Azoulay wrote in the post.

Hours later the yacht was stopped while still in international waters and soldiers boarded, taking Erez and the man captive.

“They are at the moment towing the boast to Colombia with six armed soldiers on board,” she wrote at the time. “My brother is very worried by the aggressiveness used against him and what might happen to him when he reaches Colombia. He is caught in a hopeless situation and is very worried they will involve him in a matter he has nothing to do with.”

Azoulay said she has asked the Foreign Ministry to help, and also contacted Colombian authorities.

Erez has Israeli and German citizenship. His family has also contacted the German embassy in Israel.

Last November Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Colombia, where he signed a tourism cooperation agreement at the Narino presidential palace.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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