In an early morning raid, more than 200 Tax Authority investigators and Israel Police Lahav 433 unit officers swooped down on a bonded warehouse near Ashdod port and arrested 17 people throughout the city suspected of embezzling millions of shekels in an import tax evasion scheme.
The suspicion is of customs and money laundering offenses amounting to tens of millions of shekels using a chain of international companies to camouflage the offenses.
Those detained are suspected of cooperating for years in smuggling and understating the price of alcoholic beverages, thereby stealing over thirty million shekels (US$7.5 million) from the state, and also laundering millions of shekels.
During the bust, detectives seized computers, documents, merchandise and bank account details.
The cell is suspected of committing several counts of fraud and customs offenses.
According to the Israel Police and the Israel Tax Authority, their units have been operating covertly for some time at the bonded warehouses at Ashdod Port, using advanced technology, and investigations have been taking place in Europe as well, through international cooperation between enforcement agencies.