Police impound ‘luxury’ vehicles in Arab town in crackdown on tax evaders

Police says 10 cars taken as part of a larger effort to deal with soaring crime in Arab community; one vehicle returned to owner after debt owed to tax authority paid

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A car that was impounded by police in  Umm al-Fahm, November 10, 2021. (Israel Tax Authority)
A car that was impounded by police in Umm al-Fahm, November 10, 2021. (Israel Tax Authority)

Israel Police impounded ten “luxury” vehicles in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm on Wednesday from debtors owing income tax and VAT to the Israel Tax Authority, officials said.

In a joint statement with the tax authority, police said the operation was part of the ongoing effort to combat the rising crime in the country’s Arab community.

One of the ten vehicles was later released back to the owner after he paid off the debt to a tax authority official.

The joint statement said the vehicles were worth “hundreds of thousands of shekels.” Images released by the tax authority showed Mercedes, Skoda, and Hyundai vehicles.

It was not clear if any of the owners were suspected of being involved in organized crime or just owed taxes.

In recent weeks, police have ramped up activity in Arab locales under a major operation dubbed “Safe Route,” arresting dozens of suspects over alleged possession or trade of firearms, drug-related crimes, and traffic offenses.

Overnight and early Tuesday morning, 64 illegal arms traders were arrested as part of what the police described as the biggest sweep of contraband arms in the country’s history.

A ceremony after the largest ever police operation against illegal gun dealers, in Tel Aviv, November 9, 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly by organized crime.

Since the beginning of 2021, at least 106 people were killed in suspected homicides, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit. Some 90 were citizens of Israel, and another 16 were Palestinians, either from East Jerusalem or with Israeli residency.

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. The community has also suffered from decades of neglect.

In August, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that violence and crime in Arab Israeli communities was a “national calamity.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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