Drug trafficker jailed after years on the run in Israel

Eitan Benzur was finally jailed seven years after fleeing to Israel

Eitan Benzur was finally jailed seven years after fleeing to Israel to avoid drug-trafficking charges - Credit: NCA

A man who fled to Israel to avoid charges of money laundering and trafficking cannabis worth £9m has finally been jailed - after spending more than six years on the run.

Maida Vale man Eitan Benzur, 65, skipped bail and fled to the Middle-East to avoid being brought to justice after his flat was raided, £400,000 in cash was seized, and National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators found a ledger accounting for eight and a half tonnes of cannabis in February 2014.

On the same day, the St John's Wood home of Clare O'Neill, now 46, was searched and £115,729 was recovered. O'Neill and Benzur were "criminal associates", the NCA said. 

O'Neill admitted two money-laundering charges and possessing a false identity document – a passport in Benzur's name – and was given a two-year suspended sentence and 180 hours of community service in February 2015. 

She was also unable to explain £83,867 which Benzur had paid into her bank account.

Benzur's accounts connected him to a Blackpool man who had his home raided in 2010 and 70kg of cannabis seized.

The NCA investigation found Benzur was "connected to the financing of this shipment" and had used unregistered mobile phones to facilitate money laundering.

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Investigators showed Benzur had not declared any income for the 15 years prior to his arrest and had claimed benefits totalling £127,991 between 2008 and 2014.

Working with local authorities in Israel, NCA officers traced Benzur to Tel Aviv, and after he was arrested in December 2019, he was extradited back to the UK in August 20.

He admitted charges of conspiracy to import drugs and of money laundering at Bristol Crown Court in April 2021, and was sentenced to nine years behind bars at the same court on May 17.

The NCA's operation manager, Tudor Thomas, 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.

“Time and again, the NCA’s tenacity and international reach brings fugitives from UK justice to account, no matter how long it takes.”