Analysis: Israeli Ecstasy Kingpin Arrested

All Things Considered: November 10, 2004

Alleged Ecstasy Kingpin Arrested

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This week, police in Tel Aviv arrested Israel's most-wanted underworld boss on the basis of an extradition request from the United States. Ze'ev Rosenstein is suspected of organizing the sale of some 700,000 ecstasy tablets in the US. His detention came after a four-year joint investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Miami and the Israeli police. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Israeli police have been trying to get Ze'ev Rosenstein for years. In Israel, he is suspected of ordering contract killings and running illegal gambling and prostitution rings. But with the exception of a robbery conviction in the 1970s, police have never been able to gather enough evidence against Rosenstein to indict him. But this week, after an extradition request from Florida, they arrested 49-year-old Rosenstein. He was nabbed at 2 AM as he left a pub in Tel Aviv. Yesterday, he was brought before a Tel Aviv court where his request for house arrest was denied. Rosenstein will remain in jail until a format extradition request comes from the US sometime in the next 60 days. Israeli prosecutor Irit Kahan said she was pleased with the court decision to keep him in jail.

Ms. IRIT KAHAN (Israeli Prosecutor): (Foreign language spoken)

GRADSTEIN: `We suspect that he would try to flee,' she said. `He knows what's waiting for him in the United States.'

US attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marcos Jimenez said Israeli gangs have controlled traffic in ecstasy between Europe and the US for the past decade. Jimenez said Rosenstein's arrest is an important achievement.

Mr. MARCOS JIMENEZ (US Attorney, Southern District of Florida): The attorney general, the Department of Justice, in conjunction with other agencies, have developed certain targets who are designated as the worst of the worst. And Mr. Rosenstein is certainly one of them.

GRADSTEIN: Rosenstein's lawyer said his client has been falsely accused.

Justice Ministry officials said that based on past experience, the extradition process could take more than a year. Rosenstein faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. According to Israeli law and the extradition treaty with the US, he would serve his sentence in Israel. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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