Dope-dealing ring on messaging app busted in Israel

The suspects allegedly dealt not only in marijuana but also ecstasy and cocaine. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Dope-dealing ring on messaging app busted in Israel

  • The suspects traded through the encrypted messaging app Telegram
  • The suspects allegedly dealt not only in marijuana but also ecstasy and cocaine

JERUSALEM: Israeli police said Tuesday that undercover officers had broken up a drug-dealing network that used a popular messaging app and had connections in the United States, Ukraine and Germany.
“After several months of covert investigation 42 suspects were this morning detained in Israel and abroad for questioning under caution on suspicions of trafficking various types of drugs,” a police statement said.
It said the transactions amounted to “hundreds of millions” of Israeli shekels (tens of millions of dollars/euros).
The suspects, the statement added, traded through the encrypted messaging app Telegram.
Police designated the ring “Crime Organization 420” and published its organizational chart, with one person at its head and a hierarchy of executives for finance, infrastructure, security and development, among others.
The statement did not give any names and did not link the suspects to the Israeli drug marketplace Telegrass, which uses Telegram.
Israeli public radio, however, said that Telegrass founder Amos Dov Silver was among those arrested.
The radio said that the suspects allegedly dealt not only in marijuana but also ecstasy and cocaine.
It said that Silver, a dual Israel-US citizen resident in the United States, was arrested in Ukraine and Israel would request his extradition.
The Telegrass website carried a message in Hebrew on Tuesday describing it as a “black day.”
“Hope you never know how much it hurts to get up in the morning to find out that your friends have been arrested,” it said.
“That their homes were turned upside down, that they were treated worse than animals, that their little children were frightened in the middle of the night with dogs and violent shouts.”
A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Wages for staff and managers of the organization were transferred in cash, in bitcoins, or drugs, while concealing the source of the funds,” the police statement said.
Officers of the Israeli police cyber-crime unit worked with Ukrainian, US and German law enforcement, it added.


US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

Updated 24 May 2019
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US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

  • Donald Trump says the additional troops would serve a 'mostly protective' role
  • The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US will strengthen its force in the Middle East with 1,500 extra troops, Donald Trump said Friday as the Pentagon blamed Iran for an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective.
"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens."

Shortly after his comments, the Pentagon accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the UAE earlier this month, describing it as part of a "campaign" by Tehran driving new US deployments.
"The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC," said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe "the means of delivery" of the mines.

The 1,500 extra troops will be made up of a deployment of 900 more forces, including engineers, and the extension of a tour by some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.

Officials said earlier that members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the force in the region.
Earlier this week, officials said that Pentagon planners had outlined plans that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

*With AP and Reuters