Police late Sunday arrested eleven residents of Arab villages in northern Israel who ran a gang that demanded “protection” money from farmers and contractors. The gang would set fires to fields or destroy tractors and trucks, and then send one of its members to offer “protection” services against future attacks, guaranteeing they would not take place – for a hefty fee, of course. Those who refused to pay founds themselves the victims of major fires. The gang operated in northern and central Israel, police said.
Police said they arrested members of the gang after a lengthy investigation that involved hundreds of police officers, Yasam special forces officers, Tax Authority investigators, and Canine Corps officers and dogs. Charges filed against members of the gang include money laundering charges, as they issued false invoices for “services rendered” to their customers. The arrests Sunday were in addition to several others made previously, and more arrests are expected.
Police said in a statement that they called on all Israelis who found themselves victims of a protection scheme to file a complaint. “Our experience shows that paying these people just leads to greater demands, and encourages them to expand their demands against the victim, and to recruit other victims. We will continue to fight this phenomenon and will bring all perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” the statement said.