Over 20 arrested in alleged half-billion-shekel money laundering ring

Police raid homes, businesses and financial service providers, seizing tens of million of shekels of assets following months-long undercover probe

General view of the Lahav 433 police unit headquarters in the city of Lod, on November 4, 2019. (Flash90)
General view of the Lahav 433 police unit headquarters in the city of Lod, on November 4, 2019. (Flash90)

Police arrested 21 people suspected of involvement in an alleged half-billion-shekel tax fraud, authorities said Monday.

The suspects were arrested across the country as police and tax authorities raided dozens of homes, businesses, financial service providers and contracting companies on Monday, following a months-long investigation into the alleged scheme.

The ring is accused of faking invoices and using an array of construction, human resources, car rental and money exchange companies as fronts for a money laundering scheme worth NIS 500 million ($145 million), the Tax Authority said.

Assets worth tens of million of shekels were seized in the raids, the authority said.

The suspects face charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and misuse of corporate documents.

The investigation is part of an operation dubbed “Safe Route,” a multi-year police-led operation aimed at tackling crime in Arab communities.

Arab Israelis block a road as they protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings in their communities, in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to an operational update provided by the Public Security Ministry in April, the operation has so far led to the detainment of 196 suspects and the seizure of NIS 200 million ($60 million) worth of assets.

Law enforcement officials have vowed to clamp down on rampant crime in Arab communities, which have experienced an explosion of violent crime in recent years. The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime.

Arab Israelis blame police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

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