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.