Six people were arrested and eight were detained for questioning Monday morning as police broke open a network suspected of smuggling hundreds of people into the country from Georgia.
The suspects, among whom were contractors employed at the airport, brought people into the country bypassing security checks and border control, the Israel Police said in a statement.
Those arrested and detained are suspected of border law violations and offenses involving bribery, fraud, breach of trust, conspiring to commit a crime, and fraudulently receiving goods.
The investigation, which had been conducted undercover for several months, became public with the arrests and searches carried out Monday.
According to the Ynet news site, those who were brought into the country paid the smugglers up to $10,000 each to reach Israel, where some of them sought work.
The cell operated out of an apartment in the central city of Rishon Lezion and is estimated to have brought hundreds of Georgians into the country, the report said. It is believed to have been operating since 2017.
Police said the wide-ranging case is being handled by its Lahav 433 national fraud unit together with the state prosecutor’s economic division and the Israel Airports Authority.
“Each member of the network had a specific role in assisting the smuggling for money, making an effort to disguise their actions from the view of law enforcement authorities,” police said in the statement.
A police source told the Walla news site that investigators received intelligence information about the smuggling operation several months ago and that smugglers had “created a kind of underground tunnel that was used to enter Israel.”
“If the Georgians were able to enter it could also be used by terrorist elements,” said the anonymous source.
The Israel Police said it would “act with all the means at its disposal in order to expose offenses that directly affect the safety of the citizens in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.”