Daily Israel Report

Air Crew Member Busted Over 'Personal Import Firm'

A Delta Airlines employee was arrested after he tried to smuggle over 100 iPhones into Israel, without paying customs duties
By David Lev
First Publish: 1/14/2013, 10:07 PM

Israelis await purchase of iPhone
Israelis await purchase of iPhone
Flash 90

A one-man “import firm,” bringing smartphones into the country without payment of import duties, was shut down Friday when the culprit, who worked for Delta Airlines as a courier and cabin crew member, was arrested with no fewer than 115 iPhones and other devices in his possession. He was arrested after trying to pass customs in the “green line,” with nothing to declare. According to tax officials, the devices were worth NIS 465,000 on the open market, a sum that should net NIS 150,000 in customs duties.

The culprit, an Israeli citizen living in New York, has worked for Delta for five years. Police suspect that he has smuggled in many other smartphones and other items without paying customs duties.

The Delta employee was arrested Friday, after coming in on a regularly scheduled flight from New York as a crew member. Customs officials had already opened an investigation against him, and when he tried to pass through the customs “green line,” he was detained. In a check of his luggage, investigators found 111 iPhone 5 devices, four LG phones, and a brand-new Macbook computer. He did not declare any of the items, officials said.

The man was detained for 48 hours and released. Police plan to indict him for tax fraud and customs violations. He is not permitted to leave Israel.

Customs officials said they planned to aggressively pursue the case and expected police and the courts to treat the culprit as harshly as possible, as he not only violated the trust the state puts in its citzens – probably numerous times – but he also took advantage of his position as a crew member, with free transportation to and from the U.S., to earn illicit money “on the side.” Customs officials generally do not inspect the luggage of crew members, doing so only when there is a specific need.

Delta has not yet commented on the case.