Three young Israelis are imprisoned in Hong Kong, awaiting their sentences for allegedly trying to smuggle out some 342 kilos (754 pounds) of gold from the China-controlled island.
In addition to multiple gold barrels, during the arrest of Yoav Chen, Daniel Fadlon and Omer Gavish police found four five-carat diamonds in their possession. While the former two have owned up to the counts of smuggling last week in hope to reduce their sentences, Gavish pleaded innocence before the court of law.
The hearings ended last week, and now the three are awaiting their sentences, which are expected to be announced in a week or two. Maximum punishment for attempted smuggling in Hong Kong can reach life sentence and even capital punishment, although either is extremely unlikely in this case.
Hong Kong has abolished capital punishment in 1993; however some cases, including smugglers, are redirected to China, the world's most prolific practitioner of execution, due to overload of the legal system.
"He's a good boy, real 'salt of the earth,' he has nothing to be ashamed of," Gavish's mother Dalia, a resident of a kibbutz in northern Israel told Yedioth Ahronoth. "He's just a pawn in the whole business.
He worked in naval security after finishing his military service, he travelled a lot. Then someone offered him a job as a security guard in Hong Kong about a year ago. He went there and got himself mixed up in that unsavory affair."
Dalia Gavish added she visited her son in prison, where he was in good health and optimistic regarding his acquittal.
The three Israelis were arrested after local authorities noticed the suspiciously high frequency of their comings and goings in and out of Hong Kong.
In the last few days rumors were afoot among the local Jewish community – which, standing at some 5,000 is the largest in Asia – that the three were smuggling more than just barrels of gold, namely both light and hard drugs.
"It sounds like a sad story of three good kids, salt of the earth, graduates of select combat units, which felt into a trap set by a drug baron," a source in the community said Saturday.
"We are hoping for the sake of these kids and their families that the authorities let them return to Israel, though, based on past precedents, this system shows no mercy. We are hoping this story doesn't stain the whole community, as many of the Jewish businesses here are based around diamonds."