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A former modeling agent was arrested Thursday night along with two others on suspicion of running an on-line casino.
Asi Vaknin, the main suspect, Naftali Goldman and Yonatan Grimberg. were arrested by detectives from the police International and Serious Crimes division.
All three are suspected of money laundering. Vaknin is also suspected of making threats. The three were remanded on Friday morning for four days.
Police questioned Vaknin for several hours at the International and Serious Crimes Unit offices in Lod, but he maintained his right to remain silent.
On Friday morning, all three suspects appeared for 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, reiterated their demand for proof the business in question was not legal or different from Internet gaming sites.
"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 seemed to doubt whether Vaknin had broken the law.
At one point, she said: "Tedi Sagi [the owner of a company that provides software for on-line gambling sites and has recently floated shares for the first time on the London Stock Exchange] was my neighbor. I am somewhat familiar with the subject. What is the difference between him and the suspects before me?" she asked the police representative.
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.
'Running gambling site is no crime'
However, 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."
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.
Nahari said he had represented other similar clients, and that in one case, although police claimed the site was being run from a portal in Israel, no indictment was issued.
"So, of course, when the site is not even operated in Israel, there is no suspicion of breaking the law," he said.
The judge said legal questions in the case "spanned the globe" and needed to be answered before the case moves ahead.
Here's another report on the subject...
Police arrested model agency head and reputed underworld figure Asi Vaknin Thursday night, on suspicion of money laundering and operating illegal online gambling sites.
Vaknin will be brought before a remand hearing on Friday.
In 2003, Vaknin, a former co-owner of the modeling agency "Roberto", testified to police that the Abergil crime family was involved in selling the drug ecstasy in Los Angeles. Vaknin later left the United States after he was suspected of involvement in a series of crimes.
The testimony that Vaknin gave Israel police in 2003 helped clarify the balance of power between Israeli organized crime families. Vaknin reportedly told police details of underworld killings and said that police had passed information to Israeli crime families that were under investigation in the United States.
Vaknin also told police that the Abergil crime family, run by brothers Itzik and Meir Abergil, was behind the wave of gangland killings in Israel at the time.
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