Pubdate: Wed, 13 Oct 1999
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Times Newspapers Ltd


From Sam Kiley In Jerusalem

ISRAELI and Dutch police have smashed an international drug ring that used
ultra-Orthodox Jews as couriers through Belgium, The Netherlands, France,
Israel and the United States, exploiting their renowned piety and
traditional garb to carry Ecstasy tablets past customs agents.

The key to breaking the ring, allegedly run by two Israelis based in
Europe, was the work of an Israeli undercover agent, who spent ten months
in The Netherlands. He is said to have bought 600,000 Ecstasy tablets from
the main suspect in an investigation that has so far led to the arrests of
41 people in Europe and eight in Israel.

"The couriers were young Americans and Israelis, most of them
ultra-Orthodox Jews," an Israeli police spokesman said. Among the drug
gang, 24 were Israelis, almost all of them ultra-Orthodox Jews. One man's
job was to recruit young religious Jews to smuggle drugs.

On raids at 36 addresses in The Netherlands, Dutch police found firearms,
cash, and the explosive Semtex.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox tend to be unpopular with secular Jews
because they do not have to serve in the armed forces, yet their yeshivot
(seminaries) are well subsidised. They have seldom resorted to violence,
beyond flinging stones at cars driving in their areas on the Sabbath.

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