A rabbi in Britain has been accused of setting up business as a drug dealer and of supplying cocaine to young prostitutes at parties in exchange for sexual favors.
Rabbi Baruch Chalomish, 54, bearded and wearing a trilby hat, stood at the dock in Manchester Crown Court with an interpreter, who occasionally translated the barristers' words into Hebrew.
The prosecution said that Chalomish was a wealthy man who took up with Nasir Abbas, 54, a convicted dealer, who had the "knowhow" and the contacts in the drug trade, and that the rabbi was the financier in the operation.
They set up their "commercial cocaine-supply operation" in an hotel service flat in Shudehill, Manchester, where, it is alleged, Chalomish liked to dispense the drug in return for "sexual favors".
Chalomish, a part of Greater Manchester's Orthodox Jewish community, denies two charges of supplying cocaine but admits two counts of possession.
Abbas, who did not turn up for the trial, faces charges of possessing the Class A controlled drug with intent to supply.
When police raided the flat in January they found evidence of a substantial drug operation, including bottles and bags containing the drug and paraphernalia used to cut it for sale, cutting agents, rolled-up 20 pound 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 drug.
He suggested that the discovery of the drug in a highly pure state was important, as most cocaine is sold on the streets with a purity of about 28 per cent or less.
"What you might find significant is some of the recovered cocaine is between 65 and 82 per cent pure," Times Online quoted Goldwater as saying.
"That would normally be cut down with harmless powder to achieve the desired level of purity in which cocaine is normally sold," he stated.
Drugs and quantities of cash were found in a search of the rabbi's home in Salford.
In total from both premises, police recovered more than 100g of cocaine, worth about 6,700 pounds in street sales.
Abbas told police after his arrest that the rabbi gave him money to rent the flat.
"He wanted to relax and have a party in the flat," he stated.
Goldwater told the jury that Abbas insisted that the rabbi did not sell drugs but if anyone wanted to take them he or she could.
When it was put to Chalomish that the amounts of cocaine found were not consistent with personal use he replied that when he buys cigarettes, he does not buy one or two packets but 20 at a time.
He told officers that he had bought the cocaine in bulk so he could guarantee his access to the "good stuff".
"What was going on? The prosecution say these were two men engaged in essentially a commercial drug-supply operation," Goldwater said.
"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 knowhow 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," he added.
The judge told the jury not to assume that Abbas is guilty simply "because he isn't here".