11/16/09 – The Israeli authorities renewed efforts to clamp down hard on Internet gambling operations allegedly operating from within the Middle Eastern country this week, with the Jerusalem Post reporting that three hundred police officers and tax authority officials raided 37 homes across the country and arrested up to 30 suspects.
Police sources said that following a year-long investigation it was believed that the online gambling ring's website at Bet555.net, later Betbet.us, had brought in over 340 million shekels (around US$90 275 326) for its Israeli owners over a three year period.
The raids were carried out by the Israeli police's special unit Lahav 433, accompanied by officials from the national tax authority, state prosecutors and representatives from the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority. Initial reports said that tens of millions in assets including cars were confiscated and 160 bank accounts in various banks were seized.
In preparing for the operation, Israeli police obtained twenty court orders prior allowing them to seize suspects' vehicles and assets.
Central to the allegations is an as yet unnamed 38-year-old from Or Yehuda.
"We employed techniques to monitor the website which are very similar to eavesdropping," a police source told The Jerusalem Post. He went on to describe the gambling ring as a "pirate sports gambling industry that has taken in more than NIS 340 million since 2007."
The police spokesman claimed that Internet gambling is associated with criminal organisations and "….brings with it other forms of serious crimes, like aggravated extortion, violence, money laundering, tax offenses, and theft of monies 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 claimed. "Between April 2007 and June 2009, 70 million visits were recorded on the website, mostly by gamblers," police added.
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.
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