Israel Police on Tuesday arrested 12 people suspected of operating a trafficking network to lure women to Israel and put them to work in eight brothels countrywide. Three of the poeople arreted include a woman suspected of running the brothels, her partner, who is suspected of managing the operation’s finances, and her son. Additional suspects rented the apartments where the brothels operated, moved the young women between the brothels and maintained the apartments.
Eight women who may have provided sex services in the network were also detained. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the detention of the woman suspected of running the brothels, Zarina Belov, until next Tuesday.
According to the police report, the members of the network recruited women in Ukraine and Georgia by posting job offers on local websites. A liaison from Israel met the women in Europea and flew with them to Israel, where they were immediately brought to work in prostitution in Jerusalem, Haifa or Ashkelon. The police also said that the investigation began in June, after they received information that one of the suspects and her partner had flown in a woman from abroad in order to employ her in their brothels.
The police said that on Tuesday morning detectives raided the apartments where the network was suspected of operating, and found cash, passports and many related documents. At the same time, the police also raided the private home of Belov and her partner, finding more money and various documents.
Lior Kahana, the main suspect’s representative, claimed during the hearing to extend her remand that even if there were a suspicion of pimping, there was no evidence of the more serious crime attributed to Belov – human trafficking. The police representative at the hearing, Sgt. Shai Mandel, said in court that Belov’s story does not accord with the evidence gathered during the investigation.
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The chair of the Knesset Subcommittee on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said that the story’s revelation “makes it clear that trafficking in women is returning in a new pattern, through the front door via Ben Gurion International Airport by means of tourist visas, as a result of the policy of abolishing visas from Eastern European countries.”
She stated: “If we don’t come to our senses, a years-long fight against the phenomenon will have been in vain. There’s a violent and callous pattern here of exploitation and pimping weak women, who are brought to Israel for prostitution, often against their will or under the guise of other employment.”
Trafficking in foreign women has begun to rebound in Israel since the change in the policy of granting tourist visas to foreigners. The government gradually abolished From 2008 to 2015 visa requirements for tourists from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Moldava were gradually abolished, in order to encourage tourism from those countries. Crime organizations exploited that cahnge for human trafficking disguised as tourism.
According to the State Prosecutor’s Office, indictments are submitted in only 16 percent of prostitution and human trafficking cases. There were 1,561 investigation files opened against people suspected of committing trafficking and prostitution offenses between 2012 and 2015, but 55 percent were closed for lack of evidence. This figure also includes all the files relating to accusations of employing Israeli women, since there are no separate data for the employment of foreign women.