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#1 Firoz Ali

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 01:21 PM

The Jewish Laundry of Drug Money

By Ben Kaspit, the New York correspondent

Notes and translation by Israel Shahak

Rabbi Yosef Crozer fell because of his big mouth. "I launder money, a lot of money", he once told an acquaintance. "Every day I take $300,000 from 47 Street in Manhattan, bring it to the synagogue, give a receipt and then take a commission". The man who heard that story from Crozer was, how sad, an undercover Jewish agent of the U.S. agency for fighting drug use, DEA. A month later, in February 1990, Crozer was arrested by agents on his way from 47 Street to Brooklyn. They found on him prayer books, five passports, and also $280.000 dollars in cash in the trunk of his car. He traveled that route every day. He would arrive at the gold trading oflice on 47 Street in the afternoon, and leave shortly later, carrying suitcases and bags loaded with cash. From there he drove to the "Hessed Ve'Tzadaka" ["Mercy and Charity"] synagogue in Brooklyn, which was turned into an instrument for laundering millions of dollars, the revenue from drug sales in the New York area.


That was how Crozer made his living. Assuming that the commission for laundering money ranged in the area of 2-6%, Rabbi Crozer can be presumed not to have suffered from hunger. The investigators who questioned him faced a simple task, A respectable and pious Jew who never imagined that he will be interrogated, a son of a highly respected rabbi who headed a large yeshiva in city of New Square, Crozer broke down and cooperated. But then his lawyer, Stanley Lupkin, argued that his client, a pious Jew, had no idea that he was laundering drug money. Crozer, according to his lawyer, believed that he was laundering money for a Jewish diamond trader "who trades in cash and not for Gentile drug traders, and was using the situation to make some extra money just for his synagogue. It seems that this argument had some effect since Crozer was sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment. In exchange for a lenient sentence, he supplied his interrogators with valuable information which helped them to capture a person whom they had been seeking for a long time: Avraham Sharir, another pious Jew, the owner of a gold trading office on 47 Street, who was really one of the biggest sharks of laundering drug money in New York City . Sharir, an Israeli Jew aged about 45, to whom we will later return, subsequently confessed to having laundered $200 million for the Colombian drug cartel of Kali .


The drug trade is considered to be tbe most profitable branch of crime in the world. The profit margin ranges in the area of 200% for cocaine and 1, 200% for heroin. The amounts of money circulated in the branch are larger than the budgets of many small states. The temptation is great. The main problem of the Colombian drug barons who control a significant part of world drug trade is how to get rid of the money. It is a problem of the rich, but a nagging one. Two major Colombian drug cartels operate in the U.S.: the Kali cartel and the Medellin cartel. The killing of the head of the Medellin cartel, Pablo Escovar, by Colombian authorities in December 1993, greatly weakened this cartel, which had controlled the drug trade in the New York area. The Kali people, in contrast, hold a monopoly over the Los Angeles and Miami area markets. At present, the Kali people distribute about 80% of the world's cocaine and a third of heroin. The Kali drug cartel makes $25 billion each year within the U.S. alone. The money must somehow be shipped out of the U.S. without arousing the attention of the American authorities. Besides, the cash must be given a seal of approval and, one way or another, become legitimized. Around this complex issue a mega-business has sprung up: laundering and smuggling drug money. American customs investigators have found millions of dollars in containers supposed to have contained dried peas, in double-sided gas tanks, in steel boxes attached to freight ships. In 1990 they found $14 million in cash in a shipment of cables, supposed to have been sent from a Long Island warehouse to Colombia. According to records found on the site, that was shipment no.234 (multiplied by 14 million, calculate it yourselves). The same year, at Kennedy Airport, in a warehouse, 26 large containers were found which were supposed to have contained bull sperm. The latter was not there, but there were $6.5 million. In May of this year American investigators raided a bowling ball plant in Long Island. They picked the balls, cut them in half and found within 210,000 dollars, in used $100 bills.


Despite their active imagination, the drug barons find it hard to keep up. $25 billion is a lot of money and it must fill a lot of space, since most of the money gained in drug deals conies in bills of $l0-20. And that is how the match was made between the drug cartels and the 47 Street in Manhattan, That street is the world center for trading diamonds, gold, jewels and precious stones. Hundreds of businesses are crowded in there, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, Shops, businesses, display halls. In the back rooms and on the top floors, far from public access, the action takes place. That is where the major traders sit, that is where the deals are made. Diamonds, gold and jewels pass from hand to hand, with a handshake. The frantic activity there offers an ideal cover for illegal transfers of money. "In fact, even legitimate business appears, on 47 Street, to be dark and mysterious", said a customs official. "Merchandise arrives constantly, boxes, suitcases and packages are constantly opened, everything arrives in armored cars, under heavy security and a shield of secrecy. Now, go find the black money".


"The match between the drug barons and 47 Street", an American customs investigator told "Maariv", " is ideal." The gold and diamonds industry circulates large amounts of cash. The diamond traders are accustomed to transporting large amounts of money in cash, from one state to another, efficiently and without leaving a trace. Large amounts of money pass from hand to hand on 47 Street, without arousing suspicion. A diamond trader might launder $5 million every day, without arousing special attention. It is difficult to monitor the deals, to locate the sources of the money and it is very difficult to infiltrate that closed field, which is based on personal acquaintance and trust. Added to it is the fact that in the course of the past five years, the diamond industry on 47 Street has been in a deep slump, which led many traders into bankruptcy. "A trader like that", said an investigator, "faces the choice of bankruptcy or making easy, quick and relatively safe money. Not everyone is strong enough to withstand the temptation".



All of that would not have been of interest to us if not for the massive Israeli or Jewish presence on 47 Street. "At least 50% of the diamond traders there are Israelis", so an Israeli diamond merchant who wishes to remain anonymous, told "Maariv.". 'Not a few Israelis also operate in the field of jewels, precious stones and gold. All of them came to New York to make fast money, conquer the market, get their big break. Not all of them succeeded, especially not recently". But Jewish presence on 47 Street is much greater than that. Experts in the field estimate that 75-80% of the active traders on the street are Jews. A large part of them are very talous Orthodox Jews, mainly Hassids . There is also a respectable representation of Jews from Iran and Syria, usually also very pious. One can get along fine in Hebrew on 47 Street. There are many more kosher restaurants in the area than in the entire Tel-Aviv. The place is also the biggest laundry for drug money in the U.S..

The expansion of the phenomenon of laundering drug money in the U.S. in general and on 47 Street in particular, led to the establishment of a special American task force, to combat the phenomenon. The unit is called Eldorado, after the mythical South American city of gold. It is staffed with 200 agents, officials of the U.S customs and internal revenue agencies. Eldorado, established in April 1990, investigates the money laundering in general. Fifty of its agents dedicate their time just to 47 Street. "It is work that demands tremendous manpower, said Robert Van Attan, an Eldorado officer, since the money has to be monitored along the length and breadth of the continent, sometimes also abroad". The target of the Eldorado agents is money, and money alone. They are not interested in drug imports, drug deals or drug dealers. "We want to put our hands on the money. To hit their pockets", say members of the unit.


The task is difficult. In America there is no law that prohibits possessing money. On the other hand, when a large amount of cash is found in the possession of a launderer, the agents confiscate the money. If the person can prove that the source of the money was legitimate, he gets it back. That does not happen. The launderers are experienced. When one of them is caught and several million dollars are found in his possession, he willingly hands over the money, but asks for a receipt. "The money is not mine, I want you to confirm that you took it," is the common request. Incidently, their lives depend on that receipt. It is not a simple matter to trail them. The eyes of a typical launderer are glued to his rear-view mirror. He makes sudden stops, moves from one lane to another, chooses long and twisted routes from one place to another. Eldorado has an answer. The investigators follow their targets with eight, ten, sometimes 12 vehicles. If necessary they use one or two helicopters. There is also sophisticated equipment, the wonders of American technology in the fields of tapping. surveillance and code-breaking. In the first two years of its operations, Eldorado captured 60 million dollars and arrested 120 launderers.
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#2 Firoz Ali

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 01:22 PM

http://mideastfacts....w_drg_mony.html


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#3 Firoz Ali

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 01:25 PM

'Sammy the Bull' Trial Lifts Veil On Israelis
in Ecstasy Trade
By BENNY AVNI
FORWARD CORRESPONDENT

A celebrated mob informant's trial on drug-distribution charges is opening a window on an aspect of the drug trade that many New Yorkers would rather ignore. According to federal and local law enforcement officials, Israeli criminals have cornered the market on the drug ecstasy, controlling by some accounts as much as 75% of the American market.

Sammy "the Bull" Gravano was back in Brooklyn last week, appearing in the same federal courthouse where he became a household name in the late 1980s. It was there that he gave the testimony that sent his former boss, John "the Dapper Don" Gotti, to a federal prison for life. Gravano, the highest-ranking mob turncoat in the history of American organized crime, settled down after the trial to a new life in Arizona, courtesy of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Gravano is back in town because federal authorities say his new life wasn't new enough. A few years after arriving in Arizona, prosecutors allege, he became involved in a scheme to distribute large quantities of the drug ecstasy.

Gravano's supplier, according to court papers, was an Israeli citizen named Ilan Zarger, who has pleaded guilty to flooding several American cities with ecstasy pills during a three-year period. Before the two joined forces, the 31-year-old Israeli was recorded in a surveillance videotape, boasting that he and his organization had "someone standing by" they might "whack" for allegedly running a rival distribution ring in Arizona.

But Zarger is hardly unique. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency's web page, "In recent years, Israeli organized crime syndicates, some composed of Russian ?migr?s associated with Russian organized crime syndicates, have forged relationships with Western European traffickers, and gained control over a significant share of the European market. The Israeli syndicates are currently the primary sources to U.S. distribution groups."

Names like Jacob Orgad, Sean Erez, Oshri Amar and others have figured prominently in investigations into the distribution of the drug, which is also known by the scientific name methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA.

What attracts Israelis to ecstasy, officials say, is simple opportunity. "Because of the fact that heroin and cocaine are imported and distributed by Colombian and other Latin American cartels, Israeli organized crime has gotten involved in the distribution of ecstasy," said Avery Mehlman, chief of the narcotics division at the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

In Israel, authorities started to notice the drug in the mid-1980s, as it was gaining popularity in Europe. "Just the way it caught up in other countries, it came to ours," said Assaf Hefetz, former chief of Israel National Police. "It is a drug that gets around in parties." The mildly hallucinogenic drug gained popularity among Israeli young adults who were fresh from the army. It became the drug of choice at so-called "rave" parties, where rhythmic dance music called "techno" is played for hours until sunrise.

Soon after, Israelis started manufacturing and distributing the drug, first in Israel and then abroad, Mr. Hefetz said.

Most manufacturing of MDMA is done in Belgium and Holland, where Israeli ?migr?s have been a visible presence in the local crime scene for a long time. "The heroin import to Israel is done from Thailand via Holland," said Abraham Abramovsky, a Fordham law professor and the director of the university's International Criminal Law Center, who has followed Israeli crime figures abroad for years.

The Israeli ?migr? presence is concentrated in Antwerp and Amsterdam, he said. The laws in the so-called Benelux nations - Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg - are said by experts to benefit MDMA manufacturers, setting lighter punishment than in America for manufacturing and distributing the drug. Laws banning the primary materials used in labs to synthesize the drug also are looser.

Once establishing themselves as distributors in Europe in the 1980s, Mr. Abramovsky said, Israelis also brought in chemistry experts from Israel, who got in on the manufacturing end.

Israelis have a large presence in the diamond trade, in which carrying small, expensive cargo across borders is a valued skill. That became relevant once ecstasy made its migration, in the mid-1990s, from Western European dance clubs and "rave" parties into large American cities.

Unlike many other drugs, the little MDMA pills take up little space and carry a huge profit. A pill can be purchased from the manufacturer at prices ranging from 50 cents to $2. Once brought to America, usually in suitcases but increasingly also in swallowed condoms, and after changing many hands, it is sold in large-city dance clubs - and according to law enforcement officials, more and more in smaller towns all across America - for prices ranging from $20 to as high as $40.

"There are a lot of Israeli criminals in the three major hubs, New York, Miami and Los Angeles, so they didn't have to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Abramovsky said. The Israelis also had good connections to Russian criminal gangs, which often serve as the Israelis' partners in the ecstasy business.

American officials started noticing the growing presence of Israelis on the ecstasy scene in the late 1990s. In July 1999, after a 21-month investigation, a joint federal-state organized crime-drug enforcement task force uncovered a smuggling operation that relied mostly on carriers of an unexpected nature in the drug business: young chasidic men. Some of them, dressed in the traditional long coats and hats, thought they were carrying diamonds, according to authorities. But others knew, or at least suspected, what their cargo was. Task force officials reported that more than one million pills had been brought into the country that way, with dealers racking up huge profits.

The young chasidim, most hailing from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Monsey, N.Y., were promised a free round trip to Europe and $1,500 for bringing back the pills, the authorities said. Some got $200 recruitment fees for bringing a friend into the ring.

Following the investigation, indictments were brought against seven individuals, most of them the alleged heads of the operation. Sean Erez, an Israeli who according to the authorities ran the ring, is still in Amsterdam, where authorities are weighing a request for extradition to the United States.

In February 2000, another ecstasy ring ran by Israeli citizens was exposed in Queens, N.Y. The group, allegedly headed by Oshri Amar, the son of a famous 1950s-era Israeli pop singer, was alleged by authorities to be distributing MDMA in clubs on the East Coast and in California. Some of these clubs made huge headlines in the New York press in the mid-1990s, where they were dubbed "drug bazaars."

Ecstasy's popularity is enhanced by its perceived mildness and relative lack of side effects, which make it appear benign to the core user group - affluent, 16- to 25-year-old partygoers. "If you want to find ecstasy, follow the water," Mr. Abramovsky said. Dehydration is one of the most pronounced side effects of MDMA use, and since alcohol use is believed to decrease the euphoric feeling, clubs where the drug is popular sell large quantities of bottled water at high profits. Lollipops are also popular among users, to avoid grinding teeth, which is what many users tend to do under the influence. Drug officials assert that additional side effects include anxiety and depression, and in the long run also permanent brain damage.

The ecstasy trade is building a new reputation for Israeli criminal muscle, especially when combined with Russian gangs. But other ethnic groups have begun noticing the large profits involved in the MDMA trade, said Mr. Mehlman of the Brooklyn district attorney's office. Ecstasy is a relatively new drug in the United States, he said. It is too early to tell which group will dominate it in the long run.

If so, then the fact that names like Gravano are now allegedly involved may signal a new trend. The question, Mr. Abramovsky said, is whether Israeli criminals, who have a reputation for ruthlessness in the cities where they have been active, will prove forceful enough to maintain their market share
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#4 Firoz Ali

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 08:45 AM

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