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El Al Official & 8 Others Charged in Major Cocaine-Smuggling Ring

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At Ben Gurion airport, the hand luggage was allegedly handed off to Yogev as soon as the plane doors were opened and he then brought the bag past security and into Israel. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

An El Al senior official and eight others were charged in a major cocaine smuggling ring.

One of the nine suspects turned state’s witness in the case. Additional details — including the identities of some of those involved — are restricted from publication under a court-imposed gag order.

“In the framework of the conspiracy, the defendants acted as a planned and united operational unit, each with a specific role to ensure that their drug import program would be carried out,” the indictment read.

The drugs were allegedly put in hand luggage and smuggled past security in Johannesburg before being carried by a courier on to flights to Israel. At Ben Gurion, the hand luggage was allegedly handed off to Yogev as soon as the plane doors were opened and he then brought the bag past security and into Israel.

According to the indictment, Yogev imported cocaine with a total weight of 150 kilograms on ten different occasions from South Africa. One of the defendants was also accused of importing illegal weapons. According to the indictment, “as part of the conspiracy, the defendants acted as a planned operational unit, each with a specific role to ensure that their plans for the import of the drug would be carried out.”

“Yogev, whose job it was to take possession of the suitcase with cocaine at the entrance to the plane, blatantly violated the trust placed in him,” wrote Russo and Hasson, “and instead of serving as a gatekeeper who ensures the security of visitors to the airport, he used his security clearance to move freely through the airport for the purpose of importing cocaine in Israel.”

Yogev had very high security clearance and in the past worked directly with the country’s top law enforcement and security agencies, including the Shin Bet. Yogev was initially caught by customs agents at Ben-Gurion Airport with drugs in his possession and was interrogated by the police. Subsequently, the suspicion arose that he had headed a smuggling operation while taking advantage of his position and the company’s planes.

His arrest came following an undercover investigation conducted by the police Unit of International Crime Investigations. Police located and raided a shop on Levinsky Street in Tel Aviv that served as a drug warehouse and arrested him there.

Prosecutors wrote of Yogev that he “blatantly and grossly violated the trust given to him as part of his job.”

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