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Eight men were indicted yesterday on 23 counts of trafficking in women for purposes of prostitution, assault, threats and other charges.

According to the Tel Aviv police Central Unit, which made the arrests at the beginning of March, the men are suspected of operating "the biggest woman-smuggling ring that ever operated in Israel."

The central suspect in the indictment, filed in the Tel Aviv District, is Rahamim Saban, 35, from Moshav Megadim, allegedly a member of the Abutbul crime family. The other suspects are Shmuel Malka, 33 and Golan Azrad, 37, also from Megadim, David Muraidi, 38, from Tel Aviv, Ya'akov Muraidi, 40, from Holon, Reuven Hodiantov, 40, from Rishon Letzion, Kobi Elimelech, 43, from Afula, and Shlomo Dukerker, 45, from Petah Tikva.

The arrests were made possible due to information provided by another suspect who turned state's witness.

The indictment states that some of the suspects operated 12 brothels from 1999 to 2004 in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, among other charges. They also brought hundreds of women from the former Soviet Union to Israel via Egypt. They allegedly sold the women to brothels for between $5,000 and $7,000 each. Saban is suspected of being a partner in some of the brothels, receiving a 30-percent cut.

Some of the women were reportedly locked into apartments and some were told they would have to work for free or for low fees at first to pay back the cost of bringing them to Israel. Some were also told they would not be paid if they left before their 18-month period of employment was over.

Rahamim Saban is said to have made NIS 1,128,850 during the period he was supposedly a partner in the brothels.

The indictment states that in one case the suspects told the woman she was being brought to Israel to care for the elderly, and in another, that she would be a waitress. Saban is suspected of holding a gun to the head of one woman, kicking and punching her.

Some of the suspects also reportedly established a brothel in Cyprus to launder money from their Israel operation.

Saban was convicted in 2001 of aiding and abetting trafficking in women for purposes of prostitution, and sentenced to 31 months in jail. In 2002 he was convicted of maintaining a brothel and procuring women for prostitution. According to the prosecution, Saban committed the crimes he is now charged with while serving his sentence for previous crimes.