Banknotes in my car were ‘Shoah Gelt’, Strictly Orthodox drugs trafficker claims

Mark Zirkind told a judge in Canada he was transporting money from European Jews fearing another Holocaust


A Strictly Orthodox Jew convicted of transporting cash from a drug deal has made headlines in Canada after claiming the money was “Shoah Gelt”.

Mark Zirkind, who was arrested in Toronto in 2014 after police discovered CAD$1.1 million (£650,000) in banknotes inside his rental car, testified that the money belonged to Jewish people living in Europe or Asia who feared there would be another Holocaust.

In an appeal hearing last month, he told the judge the money’s owners wanted to move their funds to a safe country so it could not be confiscated.

Zirkind, an Lubavitch Jew appealing a four-year jail sentence for trafficking property obtained by crime, claimed he was transporting the money at the request of a man he called Avrum Reish.

He denied knowing the funds were obtained by criminal means and said he considered the task to be “a great mitzvah”.

But Zirkind admitted under cross-examination that he had never asked how the money he was transporting came into Canada, or where it would end up.

The court heard that undercover officers watched Zirkind in February 2014 meet a drug trafficking suspect in a Toronto shopping centre car park and accept a red-and-white duffle bag containing banknotes from him.

He was stopped later that day by police, who found the money spread across a number of bags in the car. Several surfaces in the car tested positive for cocaine. A portion of the money was found to have derived from cocaine trafficking.

Rejecting Zirkind’s appeal, the trial judge explained that none of the issues in the appellant’s evidence were explained by his religious beliefs.

“The argument can’t be that he’s a Lubavitch Jew and therefore he’s not going to commit a crime,” the judge said.

A court notice said he “strongly supports the trial judge’s finding that the appellant was motivated by profit and was aware that he was transporting money obtained from drug tracking.”

The case, which concluded in May, was not widely reported at the time but was publicised after appearing on the LostMessiah blog last week.

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