British drug trafficker, who escaped to Middle East, jailed for 9 years

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 20, 2021
Photo Courtesy: National Crime Agency, UK

Eitan Benzur, 65, had fled to Israel and was on the run for over 6 years

Justice caught up with a drug trafficker and money launderer who spent more than six years on the run in the Middle East, when he was jailed for nine years this week, concluding a long-drawn investigation that included extradition from Israel.

Eitan Benzur, 65, who was previously based in Maida Vale, London, fled to Israel after the National Crime Agency (NCA) officers found more than £400,000 (Dh20,76,888) in cash at his flat and in bank safety deposit boxes. The British national had been on bail following his arrest in February 2014 as part of an NCA investigation into drug trafficking and money laundering.

The NCA said that officers also found a ledger in the flat which made reference to trafficking 8.5 tonnes of cannabis with a value worth in excess of £9 million (m) (Dh46.73m). On the day Benzur’s flat was raided, officers also seized £115,729 (Dh600, 842) in cash from an address in St John’s Wood, which was the home of his criminal associate Clare O’Neill.

In February 2015, O’Neill, now aged 46, admitted to two money laundering offences relating to cash held for Benzur, and unexplained cash totaling £83,867 (Dh4,35,480) that had been paid into her bank account. She also admitted to possessing a false identity document --- a passport held for Benzur.

The NCA’s investigation showed that Benzur did not have any regular employment and had not declared any income for 15 years prior to his arrest. He had also claimed state benefits totalling £127,991 (Dh6,64,550) between 2008 and 2014.

The NCA obtained an extradition warrant for Benzur’s arrest identifying a number of offences, including money laundering, possession of a false identity document, supplying controlled drugs and fraudulently evading the prohibition on importation.

An extradition application was lodged with Israel and, as a result of working closely with the Israeli authorities, NCA officers tracked down Benzur to an address in Tel Aviv, Israel. He was arrested in December 2019 and returned to the United Kingdom (UK) on August 20, 2020.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import class B drugs and money laundering at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (April 18) and has now been sentenced to nine years imprisonment at the same court.

Tudor Thomas of NCA said: “Benzur was integral to drug dealing worth millions of pounds and the concealment of those illicit profits. Cash drives serious and organised crime, and this investigation has taken hundreds of thousands of pounds out of the criminal supply chain.”

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