44 arrested in $1b money laundering ring

Police: The gambling ring was a financing channel, which replaced the financing from Trade Bank, before it crashed.

The Israel Police today announced that it has uncovered a gambling and money laundering ring which had a turnover of over $1 billion over the past two years. The police said that the ring was a new financing channel for many criminals, which replaced the financing from Trade Bank, before it crashed.

In pre-dawn raids, the police arrested 44 persons suspected of managing the gambling and money laundering ring. The arrests were made in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Holon, Rishon LeZion, and other cities.

The arrests were made on the basis of intelligence about tens of millions of dollars obtained through illegal gambling operations by criminal gangs in central Israel. The Police set up a team to follow the money and the suspects, and discovered that the proceeds were obtained through a website "Donbet". The Police said, "Donbet was a growth engine that is suspected of financing criminal gangs in Israel."

Donbet allegedly provided many criminal gangs a new source of financing following the closing of Trade Bank after the embezzlement by Esther Alon in 2003. Donbet reportedly had a turnover of more than $1 billion over a 30-month period, on which the main suspects made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. The suspects allegedly used various means to launder the proceeds. The Police estimate that Donbet yielded to criminals $6-7 billion over its five years in operations.

Donbet operated under a legitimate camouflage with icons and links to gambling via credit cards, effectively misleading thousands of gamblers who could only use the website by buying a pot loaded by field agents via word of mouth. Players could bet on almost anything, including international sports events, such as Spanish and English football matches, and tennis, as well as poker and blackjack. Many gamblers quickly lost thousands of dollars on the site.

The Police say that this was one of the largest and most complex money laundering investigations ever carried out against organized crime in Israel. The suspects are accused of money laundering, gambling, criminal conspiracy, and violations of the Combating Criminal Organizations Law (5763-2003). "There is no doubt that the investigation could damage an important means of financing for top criminals in Israel, and the state could make tens of millions of shekels from the seizures," said the Police.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 10, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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