Israel to Extradite One of World's Top Drug Traffickers to U.S.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005; 1:06 AM
JERUSALEM (AP) -- A suspected Israeli mob boss who is described by U.S. prosecutors as one of the world's most wanted drug traffickers can be extradited to the United States, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
Zeev Rosenstein is suspected of involvement in distributing more than 1 million Ectasy pills in the United States, mostly in New York and Miami.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to approve Rosenstein's extradition, and his lawyers said they might appeal such a decision. However, two senior Israeli officers are already in Miami to help U.S. authorities build a case against Rosenstein, and a prison cell has been prepared for him there, Israel Radio said.
In April, a lower court ruled that Rosenstein could be extradited, but he appealed the ruling. On Wednesday, a three-judge Supreme Court panel upheld the lower court ruling.
"The United States is the country which was hurt by the evil acts which were committed ... and how just and right it is, that it should be the United States which judges him and sentences him (should he be convicted)," Judge Michael Cheshin wrote.
Israeli police, acting on an international arrest warrant, arrested Rosenstein a year ago for allegedly smuggling drugs from Europe to the United States.
A U.S. extradition request, submitted last December, said Rosenstein was involved in distributing more than 1 million pills of Ecstasy, court documents said.
In one shipment, Rosenstein allegedly coordinated the distribution of 700,000 Ecstasy pills that were seized in a Manhattan apartment along with $187,000 in July 2001, according to the extradition request. The drugs, which originated in Europe, were seized after they were offered for sale to an undercover Miami-Dade County police informant. The informant also worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The investigation leading to Rosenstein's arrest spanned three years and several countries.
Rosenstein, 51, has long been accused of being one of Israel's top mob leaders, but aside from a brief stint in prison for armed robbery in the 1970s, he had eluded authorities.
In December 2003, a bomb attack in Tel Aviv targeted Rosenstein -- the seventh attempt on his life -- leaving him with scratches while killing three passers-by and wounding 18 others. The attack was believed to have been ordered by rival mob bosses, police said.
Rosenstein has been charged in the United States with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States. The maximum penalty under American law is 20 years, or more if the drugs sold caused death or serious injury.
Wednesday's ruling "is good for the country and good for the cooperation between countries against international crime," said Israeli prosecutor Yitzhak Bloom.