After over a year of legal battles, a Tel Aviv District Court judge on Monday allowed Haaretz to publish the name of David (Dudi) Digmi, the biggest trafficker in women in Israeli history.
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Judge Chaled Kabub described Digmi as the central figure in the largest network in Israel trafficking in women, with operations and connections overseas in the former Soviet Union, Britain, Cyprus and Belgium. Four of the network’s senior members were sentenced to three to 18 years in prison, and another member is serving 18 years in a Russian jail.
Despite Digmi being the senior figure in the network, the court put a gag order on publishing his name after he agreed to become a state’s witness and police informer. The agreement was unusual − 24 serious cases against Digmi were closed as part of the deal, including such alleged crimes as attempted rape, trafficking in women, pimping, extortion, drug possession and many more offenses committed over the course of more than a decade.
In return for closing the cases, Digmi agreed “not to commit any crime from the time of the signing [of the agreement] until the end of his trial, and not to commit any offense that would damage his credibility.”
But Digmi did not keep his promise. Even after signing the agreement with the state he continued to get in trouble. Already during the trial of his former confederates in trafficking, he joined forces with the head of a crime organization and committed extortion, according to court documents. While acting as a state’s witness and testifying, he was caught with drugs in his car and brass knuckles, and also was part-owner of a club in which a woman was arrested for soliciting sex.
However, a number of complaints to the police accusing Digmi of extortion and using threats of violence during the period after he signed the agreement were closed by the police.
Furthermore, the Tel Aviv district of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which dealt with the trafficking in women cases together with police, continued to support Digmi’s requests to the court to keep his involvement with law enforcementsecret. The prosecution claimed there was a danger to his life if his identity was exposed, which was more important than the public’s right to know.
Kabub accepted Haaretz’s arguments that there was a clear public interest in revealing Digmi’s identity. “Digmi is the central and dominant criminal in the affair and has a heavy criminal record. He received significant benefits in the closing of dozens of open investigations against him, among other things,” the judge said. In his decision, Kabub also said Digmi allegedly continued his criminal activities with others despite the agreement he signed to become an informer and state’s witness.
The trafficking case was exposed in 2009, and when Kabub convicted the defendants early last year, he described the affair as “one of the widest and most complex cases of trafficking in women heard in the courts in recent years, if not the largest.”
The network smuggled hundreds of young women from small villages and towns in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia and Uzbekistan after convincing them to come to Israel. They were told they would find work in Israel as waitresses or dancers in clubs. In some of the cases the traffickers, including Digmi, used severe violence against the women. The women were smuggled into Israel through the Egyptian border or flown in through Turkey.
Digmi told police how the network worked: “Rami Saban [who was convicted in the case] and another man rented an apartment on Yeshayahu Street in Tel Aviv. They would bring the women there straight from Egypt. They would call me after a few hours or a day or two and ask me to come to the apartment to choose the girls I wanted to buy. I came to the apartment. There were 10 to 15 girls who came from Russia via Egypt. I would look at the girls and examine them. How they looked, look at their chest, at their body. ... Those who were with me at the time of the examinations translated what I said for the girls since they knew [only] Russian. They translated [his instructions] to strip and turn around while I would check them,” Digmi told police.