HomeNewsBriefMiddleman Linked Colombian Gangs with Israeli, Japanese Mafia
BRIEF

Middleman Linked Colombian Gangs with Israeli, Japanese Mafia

COCAINE / 6 JAN 2021 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

An Israeli national suspected of ties to Japanese and Israeli mafia groups is accused of drug trafficking and money laundering in Colombia, in a case that reveals further details about the logistical role foreign brokers play in the country’s criminal circles.

In December, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of Gabriel Kenigsberger in the trendy Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá. Two months prior, Kenigsberger was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison by a Colombian court, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s Office.

During his more than two decades living in Bogotá, he negotiated to buy cocaine from Colombia’s Oficina de Envigado, a conglomerate of criminal groups that largely controls  Medellin’s underworld, according to a video statement by anti-organized crime prosecutor Javier García Trochez. Kenigsberger then coordinated the movement of the cocaine to European crime syndicates, Japanese Yakuza groups and Israel’s so-called “Jerusalem Mafia.”

SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado Profile

Kenigsberger faces criminal proceedings outside Colombia as well, including in Israel and in the Netherlands. In 1998, he was convicted in absentia in France for being part of an international drug trafficking syndicate and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The network smuggled cocaine, and other drugs, to Europe using contacts in Colombia and Ecuador.

Kenigsberger is also under investigation for his alleged participation in sexual exploitation and procurement, including of minors, through illegal sex tourism. Prosecutors did not mention the investigation upon his arrest. But Kenigsberger reportedly has ties to the Casa Iftach hostel in Bogotá, which has for years been under investigation for suspected drug retail and sex tourism aimed at Israeli men visiting Colombia, according to a 2018 article by El Tiempo.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gabriel Kenigsberger has long served as an alleged criminal broker — someone involved in an array of illegal activities and able to connect crime syndicates in far-flung countries.

Kenigsberger was first arrested in 1998 in his Bogotá apartment after the French government asked to have him extradited on major drug trafficking charges, including for crimes committed in Colombia. He managed, however, not just to avoid extradition but to regain his freedom and carry on living in the country.

Later, in the 2010s, he became involved with another suspected Israeli drug trafficker, Assi Moosh Ben Mush. Ben Mush’s story is remarkably similar. He was arrested in 2003 in the Netherlands on charges of leading an international drug syndicate that imported cocaine to Europe from Brazil and Peru, as well as exporting Dutch ecstasy to East Asia using Japanese connections. He fled to Colombia in 2009.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Security Agreement With Israel Raises Human Rights Concerns 

Colombian police began investigating Ben Mush after the 2016 killing of another Israeli national in Medellín, according to a news release by the Attorney General’s Office. By 2018, prosecutors had uncovered extensive human trafficking, drug and prostitution networks operating out of tourist establishments in Santa Marta, Medellín, Cartagena and Bogotá. Six Israelis and two Colombians were arrested, while eight more Israelis were placed on Interpol Red Notices. Though he had close ties to Ben Mush and owned another hostel being investigated for similar crimes, Kenigsberger was not charged in the case.

On the trafficking front, Kenigsberger defied conventional activity. Instead of negotiating cocaine shipments in the coca-covered, mountainous departments of Nariño or North Santander, where wholesale prices would be cheapest, he arranged drug deals from the comfort of Bogotá, mostly for the Medellín-based Oficina de Envigado, according to the charges against him.

Relationships between Colombian and Israeli organized crime groups date back to at least 1998, when an Israeli crime syndicate was discovered laundering Cali Cartel drug money. Elsewhere in Latin America, criminals with ties to Israeli groups have been arrested or killed in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Panama. In July 2019, the assassination of two high-level Israeli capos in Mexico City led Minister of Public Security Alfonso Durazo Montaño to emphasize the tight links between Israeli and Mexican criminal groups.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

COCAINE / 29 JAN 2021

The mayor of Moyuta, Guatemala, knows how to do politics and business along the rough and tumble Guatemalan-Salvadoran border.

COLOMBIA / 15 NOV 2013

Police sources have told InSight Crime the city of Cali -- the capital of Colombia's Pacific coast drug trafficking territory…

COLOMBIA / 2 MAY 2014

The name BACRIM was created by the government of former President Alvaro Uribe in the aftermath of the demobilization of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…