Israeli authorities bust online casino

Israeli authorities bust online casino

September 13, 2009.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that a formal model agent and two accommplices were arrested last week on charges of operating an online casino, but that questions have been posed on the legitimacy of the case against them.

Asi Vaknin was named as the main suspect, with Naftali Goldman and Yonatan Grimberg also detained by police from the police International and Serious Crimes division.

All three are suspected of money laundering, and Vaknin may also face charges of making threats. The three men are on bail until a further court appearance this week after a remand judge remarked that further evidence needed to be adduced.

Haaretz reports that police questioned Vaknin for several hours at the International and Serious Crimes Unit offices in Lod, but he maintained his right to remain silent.

Last Friday morning, the three suspects appeared at a remand hearing before the duty judge, Esther Nachlieli-Khayat, at the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court.

During the hearing, the suspects' attorneys, Sasi Gez and Sharon Nahari, asked for proof the business in question was not legal or different from Internet gaming sites, the Haaretz report continues, quoting Gez as saying:

"The company in question has licenses. Everything is public and visible. Weren't you in a hurry to make arrests?" Gez asked the police representative, who responded that they were in the initial stages of the investigation.

The judge also expressed doubts on whether Vaknin had broken the law.

At one point, she said: "Tedi Sagi (the reported owner of the Playtech Casinos company that provides software for online gambling sites) was my neighbor. I am somewhat familiar with the subject. What is the difference between him and the suspects before me?" .

The lead investigator in the case, Superintendent Alon Shaharbani, replied that some of the activity took place in Israel, and that police had to arrest the suspects to catch them in the act and compare their stories.

However, legal representative Nahari told the court that several huge companies, including Sagi's, had offices in Tel Aviv's Azrieli office tower and are "traded on the London Stock Exchange for billions of dollars, and other companies give a legal license from the right governments to those seeking it."

Haaretz reported that Nahari also said that as long as Israeli gamblers are blocked from a gambling Web site, and the site is managed abroad, operating such a site is no crime.

The judge said legal questions in the case "spanned the globe" and needed to be answered before the case moves ahead.