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Israel Police Bust Internet Gambling Operation

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Nov/16/2009

Israel Police and the Tax Authority officials broke up a massive online gambling ring on Monday.s

The operation was handled jointly by the police's specialist Lahav 433 unit, Tax Authority investigators, state prosecutors, and the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority.

Over 300 police officers and Tax Authority officials raided the homes of 37 suspects across the country. Dozens of gamblers were taken to police stations for questioning and tens of millions of shekels in assets seized.

Police and Tax Authority officials obtained twenty court orders prior to the raid allowing them to seize suspects' vehicles and assets, and 160 bank accounts were frozen.

The investigation began in 2008 when authorities acquired intelligence about a 38-year-old resident of Or Yehuda who operated a betting website called bet555.net. The site later changed its address betbet.us. Over a two-and-a-half year period the site raked in hundreds of millions of shekels in profits.

"We employed techniques to monitor the website which are very similar to eavesdropping," a police source told The Jerusalem Post.

In a statement released on Monday, police described the ring as a "pirate sports gambling industry that has taken in more than NIS 340 million since 2007."

"Internet gambling is one of the severe crime phenomenon among Israeli crime organizations," police added. "It brings with it other forms of serious crimes, like aggravated extortion, violence, money laundering, tax offenses, and theft of moneys from public funds."

An elaborate hi-tech support network enabled the website's ongoing operation, police said, including a website construction team, a technical support team, and betting agents.

"Millions of shekels in clean profit were made by the website's operators," police said. "Between April 2007 and June 2009, 70 million visits were recorded on the website, mostly by gamblers," police added.

Over the past year, a team of state prosecutors and investigators from the Tax Authority and police plotted a course aimed at striking a blow to illegal internet gambling rings.

Police said Monday's raids were the result of the first undercover investigation led by the Joint Intelligence Center (JIC).

In March 2007, the government set up the JIC and tasked it with providing information to various police and Tax Authority task forces investigating crime organizations.

The center is based in the Intelligence Branch of the Israel Police headquarters in Jerusalem. It includes police representatives, Tax Authority officials, and members of the Money Laundering Prohibition Authority.

Source:  Jerusalem Post

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