The Israeli Hebrew newspapers reported today Sunday Sep. 8 2013 that the Israeli police had arrested an employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem for smuggling gold, tobacco, bank cheques and cell phones while trying to cross through the Jordanian – Palestinian Karamah Bridge into the West Bank. The Israeli police found about 152 Kg in gold bars, nearly $2 million in cheques, 500 Kg of tobacco and hundreds of cell phones in his car with a diplomatic registration.
Since it is highly unusual that a diplomat would be detained for such “petty” misdemeanours, it can be theorized that the Israeli police would be deliberately dirtying the name of the French consulate for unknown reasons. No information was released about the partners of the French diplomat who were supposed to receive the contraband so it is not known if he works for an Israeli governmental body, is a politician, a parliamentarian, a Mafioso or even an employee of the Palestinian Authority. The police also did not say how many times the French diplomat had succeeded in smuggling goods before.
The Israeli police did not disclose the reasons for the dispute that took place between the French diplomat and his partner, which led him to inform the Israeli police about the deal and the confiscation of gold before the entry through the occupied Palestine.
News about the smuggling deal are below
By FRANCE 24 – Israeli officials arrested an employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem on Tuesday as he tried to cross from Jordan into the West Bank with some 152 kg in gold bars, nearly $2 million in checks and 500 kg of tobacco.
Israeli customs officials on Tuesday arrested a French consulate employee carrying nearly $2 million in checks, 152 kg in gold bars and a half ton of tobacco as he tried to cross between Jordan and the West Bank in a diplomatic vehicle, a French source confirmed to FRANCE 24.
Intrigued by the smell of tobacco, Israeli officials asked the man if they could search his car. He refused, explaining that his diplomatic plates were registered at the French consulate in Jerusalem and that he possessed a service passport – an official document issued by the French authorities that indicates he is a member of the consular staff but which does not serve as a diplomatic passport.
A hidden treasure
Faced with more questions and increasing pressure, the man grew nervous and asked to be allowed to turn around and return to Jordan. The officials refused and called their superiors, who alerted the French consulate. The ambassador was away, so his deputy took the case.
While the diplomat told the young driver that he was probably right in refusing a search, he insisted it would be in his best interests to obey the custom officials’ orders, whereupon the man informed the consular official that what he was carrying wasn’t “insignificant”. The diplomat, realising that the situation was becoming increasingly complicated, alerted the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Paris.
The ministry’s advice was to allow the vehicle to be searched to avoid giving the impression that there was a coverup.
The driver eventually complied, revealing 152 kg of gold, mostly in bars; 500 kg of tobacco; hundreds of new cell phones; and nearly $2 million in checks.
Deported back to France
The Israeli police arrested the man, who was in charge of the consulate’s garage, questioned him and quickly deported him to France.
Now back on French soil, it is still unclear whether or not the driver was arrested by French police.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, Vincent Floriani, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, said the driver was travelling on his own account, privately, and not on behalf of the embassy.
He insisted that the French and Israeli authorities had cooperated fully. “We have absolutely no tolerance for this kind of behaviour,” he said.
The case, however, could harm the reputation of the French consulate in Jerusalem, which some Israelis already call “the embassy of France in Palestine”.