Following a protracted international joint undercover investigation, Police on Sunday arrested five east Jerusalem antiquities dealers accused of a $20 million tax fraud and artifacts scheme reaching as far as The United States.
According to police, the investigation was launched several months ago with US law enforcement agencies, the Antiquities Authority and Israel Tax Authority after evidence surfaced that the dealers had been involved in illegal transactions for seven years.
During the early morning hours, police raided the homes and businesses of the unidentified suspects, seizing valuable antiquities, luxury cars and NIS 800,000 in foreign currencies.
“The investigation revealed that the volume of the transactions exceeded $20 million, and that the invoices issued by the suspects helped an American agent to receive large-scale tax refunds, with part of that amount returned to the suspects,” police said in a statement.
“This information led to the opening of a covert investigation in which much evidence was collected using advanced technological means, leading to the establishment of an evidentiary infrastructure against the suspects.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said several seized antiquities dated back thousands of years.
“The antiquities that were seized included ancient parchment pieces written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin; ancient weapons; sculpture items from the Hellenistic and Roman periods; high-level murals; pottery and figurines; and many bronze, silver and gold coins,” he said.
“This is a large-scale investigation against large-scale taxation, forgery and money-laundering offenses, using antiquities of unknown origin, which was carried out in full cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Tax Authority,” he added.
Upon their arrest, the suspects were brought in for questioning at the Fraud Unit in Jerusalem, where they were interrogated on suspicion of tax offenses, money laundering and forgery of documents.
After being questioned, all five men were arraigned at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, where a judge ordered their remand amid the ongoing investigation.