‘Underground smugglers’ tunnel’ discovered in middle of Ben-Gurion Airport

An Israeli police official warned, “If Georgians could get in, so could terrorists.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

After months of investigation, the police arrested six members of a ring on Monday that bypassed Ben-Gurion airport security to bring hundreds of foreigners into Israel illegally. Eight others were also detained for questioning.

A senior investigator told Israel Hayom that groups operating in Georgia and Israel worked together to smuggle people from the Black Sea-bordering nation through Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Some of the members in the smuggling ring were contract employees at the airport, the police say. They had been bribed to enable such “clients” to enter the country without going through passport control.

After getting past security, a taxi driver took them from the airport to a secret “safe house” in the city of Rishon LeZion, said the paper.

Each Georgian paid 10,000 shekels (~$2,800) to get into the country, according to the report, and as many as hundreds, possibly over 1,000, used the network to enter Israel illegally.

“This was akin to an underground tunnel that was operating right under our noses at the airport,” a senior police official said.

“If Georgians could get in, it could also spread to the terrorist arena,” he said.  However, he added that the authorities had no indication that terrorists used this means of getting into the country.

According to a senior airport security official, the illegal entrants were looking for employment.

“There is no link and no connection between the event under discussion and the security domain in Ben Gurion Airport,” he told the Hebrew daily.

The undercover investigation was carried out jointly by the Israel police’s national crimes unit and the State Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the Israel Airports Authority, the smuggling was uncovered when, “as part of the activities of the crime prevention unit at Ben-Gurion Airport, foreign nationals were caught trying to circumvent border control. The matter was transferred to the security services and the Israel Police.”

The Magistrates Court in Rishon LeZion extended the detention for nine of the suspects so that the police can continue their investigation.