Tuesday, November 9, 1999
IDF officers fingered in drug smugglingBy Sharon Gal
Dozens of IDF soldiers and a few officers stationed in southern Lebanon are smuggling drugs into Israel, according to intelligence information obtained from a high-ranking police superintendent.
Chief Superintendent Kobi Bachar, head of the police's drug force in the northern district until a month ago, told Ha'aretz yesterday that the information had been given to highly placed officers in the army, but that they had decided not to act on it for various reasons.
According to the intelligence, most of the soldiers involved are trackers serving in Lebanon, and the soldiers and officers mainly act as couriers, carrying drugs from dealers in Lebanon to dealers in Israel. Police estimate that between one and three tons of heroin is smuggled into Israel each year over the Lebanon border.
The drug activity has increased significantly in recent months and according to Bachar, "The phenomenon is spreading. This is widespread, and it is not unheard of in the army. It's not only trackers who are involved. The circles are widening."
Bachar stressed that it is command post personnel, rather than combat soldiers on the front lines, who are involved in the trafficking.
According to Bachar, at least one senior officer, a unit commander at the rank of major, is involved in the drug-running. His predecessor in the position was also apparently involved in drug trade. "I have spoken personally with brigade commanders. I gave them the information, but they said they do not have the tools to deal with the problem," says Bachar.
"Trackers have an easier time doing this because no one keeps track of their movements in the field."
Bachar explains that the Lebanese drug dealers and Israeli soldiers get to know each other in outposts shared by the IDF and the Southern Lebanese Army, at the border crossings and when Lebanese civilians bring supplies to the outposts. It is estimated that a courier can make up to $10,000 to transfer a kilo of heroin.
"When I raised the problem, there were senior officers in the Northern Command who said there was no alternative to the trackers," says Bachar. "Those among the soldiers and officers dealing in drugs make sure that during their drug activities, the area is clear of soldiers and police, so that the transfers can be conducted in safety."
Bachar says that in recent months there has been an increase in the attempts to smuggle drugs across the Jordanian border. "The dealers know hard times are ahead when Israel withdraws from Lebanon. This is already evident from the decreased amounts being smuggled."
The IDF spokesman responded by saying, "The Investigative Military Police (Metsah) deal with all intelligence information or complaints. When such information or evidence accumulates, an investigation is launched. At the moment, no such investigation is ongoing.
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