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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Four Israelis arrested for extortion of Eritrean migrants

Charges reveal Hamas involved in migrant smuggling operations

By ASHER ZEIGER September 23, 2012
Four Israelis, including one minor, and an East Jerusalem resident were arrested in recent weeks for working with a Hamas operative to extort money from relatives of an Eritrean kidnapped in the Sinai, police revealed on Sunday.
Two of the suspects, Yaakov Grad, 43, of Kfar Yona, and Eliran Moshe, 25, of Netanya, were indicted Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court.
Amad Abu Arar, a Hamas operative who lives in Gaza, allegedly contacted Grad in late August and instructed him to go to Tel Aviv to collect $13,000 from an uncle of an Eritrean migrant captured by Bedouin smugglers on his way to Israel.
The uncle had been played a recording of his nephew begging for his life, and persuaded to pay a ransom.
Grad and Moshe, who both have criminal records, went together to collect the money, and reportedly received NIS 1,500-2,000 for their role in the transaction.
Police believe Grad and Moshe were complicit in at least six other similar transactions, Channel 2 reported.
The indictment alleges that Grad transferred the money to Louis Nasr al-Din, a resident of East Jerusalem and also a suspected Hamas operative, who in turn transferred the money to Abu Arar, who was coordinating with the abductors.
Din was remanded for five days. His attorney, Lea Tsemel, denied that her client was involved in the case.
A third Israeli, Victor Siboni, also of Netanya, was indicted on Sunday and charged with transferring money that he received from Abu Arar to several underworld figures. The money was allegedly collected from Sudanese migrants that Abu Arar helped smuggle into Israel.
A fourth Israel, a teenager, was also arrested in connection with the case, but was released with the court’s consent.
Grad’s attorney, Boaz Kenig, claimed that Grad was unaware that Abu Arar was connected with Hamas. Kenig said that Abu Arar owed Grad NIS 1,500, and Grad acted in good faith, believing that he was receiving the money he was owed.

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