Police arrest suspects in a massive drug and gun bust
Police arrest suspects in a massive drug and gun bust
Photo: Israel Police
Police carry out mass arrests of drug and arms dealers

How a hardened criminal brought down drug and gun dealers in Israel

After spending 22 years in prison, the mobster turned police agent with the code name Leon decided to work with law enforcement to target major crime bosses in exchange for a new identity in the witness protection program, becoming the first Israeli Arab to do so

Eli Sinyor |
Published: 05.25.20 , 18:09
For the first time in Israel's history, an Arab citizen has entered witness protection, following the take down of a major network of drug and illegal arms dealers with mass arrests Monday.
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  • The man, code named "Leon" because of his physical similarity to French actor Jean Reno, who played the eponymous character in a 1994 film, has spent a total of 22 years in prison on drug-related offenses.
    מבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערביתמבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערבית
    Police carry out mass arrests of drug and arms dealers
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    He agreed to cross the line and work with the police to bring about the arrest of some 60 gang leaders, drug and weapons dealers and other hardened criminals.
    According to the police, Leon was a law enforcement unit's dream. He grew up among drug dealers and had easy access to the most senior of their ranks.
    Chief of undercover police agents at Lod District, Sup. Eyal Ankonina was wary when he was told he could enlist an agent from inside the crime organization.
    מבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערביתמבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערבית
    Police carrying out a massive drug and guns bust
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    "We are selective in the agents we choose. We want to know what we can expect to get from them. Not every drug or weapons bust is worth using an undercover agent," he said.
    Leon was put to the test after he was told the police were considering using him. They followed him to see whether he was serious and then tasked him with procuring an explosive device.
    כרזה סרט לאון כרזה סרט לאון
    Jean Reno as 'Leon' in the film of the same name
    (Photo: Archive)
    He immediately placed a call to one of the top arms dealers in the center of the country and set up a meeting at a local hospital.
    Police officers dressed as medical teams were waiting on site. Leon handed over NIS 30,000 and was told where the device could be found.
    Having passed the test, Leon signed on as a police agent with an agreement in hand that he could enter the witness protection program as soon as his job was done.
    "Just keep your end of the bargain," he told his handlers. "I don't want to look over my shoulder any more."
    מבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערביתמבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערבית
    Police officers arrest suspected drug and gun dealers
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    Leon began working quickly and was given protection in the guise of a "driver" named Max, after concerns that he was going into places the officers could not enter and that he would be on his own.
    His targets were never any the wiser and Leon and Max traveled the country, amassing evidence that would later be used in criminal prosecutions.
    On another occasion, Leon was again instructed to purchase an explosive device. A meeting with the seller was arranged outside a pizza parlor in Lod, but when the deal was done he realized the device was primed and ready to explode at the push of a button.
    Police arrest suspects in a massive drug and gun bust Police arrest suspects in a massive drug and gun bust
    Police arrest suspects in a massive drug and gun bust
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    "We saw the color drain from his face," his police handler recalls.
    The police were nervous - not wanting to blow their agent's cover but worried that civilians could be hurt if the bomb went off.
    Leon calmly picked up the package and walked away with it and put it down in a secluded area.
    In the meantime, the police shut down cell phone reception in the area to make sure the device could not be triggered remotely.
    מבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערביתמבצע חשאי לתפיסת אמל"ח וסמים בחברה הערבית
    Police officers at the raid on arms and drug dealers
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    The bomb was defused by police sappers and the danger passed.
    "I saw kids around the pizza parlor," Leon told his handlers. "I thought of my own kids and did not want anyone to get hurt."
    The criminal underworld has been shaken at the discovery of Leon's cooperation with the police.
    "If the crime bosses let an informant get that close, they should be in a different business," a police source said.

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