A rabbi set up in business as a drug dealer and lavished his supplies of cocaine on young prostitutes at parties, a jury was told today.
Rabbi Baruch Chalomish, 54, bearded and wearing a trilby hat, shared the dock at Manchester Crown Court with an interpreter who occasionally translated the barristers’ words into Hebrew.
He was said by the prosecution to be a wealthy man who took up with Nasir Abbas, also 54, a convicted dealer, who had the ‘know-how’ and the contacts in the drug trade. The rabbi was the financier in the operation.
They set up their “commercial cocaine supply operation” in a hotel service flat in Shude Hill, Manchester, where, it is alleged, Rabbi Chalomish liked to dispense the drug in return for “sexual favours”.
Rabbi Chalomish, a part of Greater Manchester’s Orthodox Jewish community, denies two charges of supplying cocaine but admits two counts of possession. Mr Abbas, who did not turn up for the trial, faces similar charges of possessing the Class A controlled drug with intent to supply.
When police raided the service apartment in January earlier this year they found evidence of a substantial drugs operation including bottles and bags containing the drug and paraphenalia used to cut it down for sale, cutting agents, rolled-up £20 notes, snap bags and credit cards.
Michael Goldwater, opening for the prosecution, told the jury that police found a set of digital scales in a canvas bag in the kitchen that was used for weighing the drugs.
He suggested that the discovery of the drug in a highly pure state was important. Most cocaine is sold on the streets with a purity of around 28 per cent or less.
“What you might find significant is some of the recovered cocaine is between 65 and 82 per cent pure. That would normally be cut down with harmless powder to achieve the desired level of purity in which cocaine is normally sold.”
Similar items were found in a search of the rabbi’s home in the centre of Salford’s Orthodox Jewish community. There were contaminated spoons and a rolled-up £5 note, pots and tubs of cocaine, a carrier bag containing benzocaine used as a cutting agent and quantities of cash.
Altogether police recovered more than 100 grammes of cocaine from both premises worth about £6,700 in street sales.
Mr Abbas told police after his arrest that the rabbi gave him the money to rent the apartment adding: “He wanted to relax and have a party in the flat.
“He said there were a lot of people who came through the flat in the last ten days, most of them girls.”
He named one girl, Emma from Stockport, who stayed for seven days. “She was the only one allowed to go in the bedroom apart from the rabbi”.
Mr Goldwater told the jury that Mr Abbas insisted that the rabbi did not sell drugs but if anyone wanted to take them they could.
The rabbi had wanted to impress the girls, he said. Anyone visiting the apartment could simply help themselves.
Rabbi Chalomish refused to comment in his early police interviews but, later, he told officers that he was a wealthy man who gave money to charity and helped people less well-off than himself.
When it was put to him that the enormous amounts of cocaine found in his house were not consistent wth personal use he replied that when he buys cigarettes, he does not buy one or two packets but 20 at a time.
He insisted to officers that he had bought the cocaine for his own use and bought in bulk so he could guarantee his access to the “good stuff”.
Mr Goldwater said: “What was going on? The prosecution say these were two men engaged in essentially a commercial drug supply operation.
“We do not completely exclude the possibility there might have been some truth in what Mr Abbas told police that some drugs were given to young women who visited the flat and one or more of these young women may have provided sexual services.
“Mr Abbas had the know-how in the drugs business and knew where to obtain the drugs, how much to pay for them and where to find customers.
“Rabbi Chalomish would not necessarily have the knowledge. We say he was the financier who put up the money. We have been informed he was a wealthy man.
“How he got into the drugs business is unclear. He might have started out as a drug user but quickly realised there were substantial profits to be made from dealing in controlled drugs”.
The judge told the jury that he was satisfied Mr Abbas had deliberately decided not to attend his trial, but he told them that they must not assume he is guilty simply “because he isn’t here”.