The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday sentenced the ringleader of an
international human trafficking ring to 18 years and seven months in
Rahamim “Rami” Saban was convicted in January of trafficking
hundreds of Ukrainian, Russian, Moldovan, Belarusian and Uzbek women into Israel
for prostitution, in what the court said was one of the largest human
trafficking operations in Israel’s history.
Saban’s international network
of criminal associates “sourced” the women in Eastern Europe and persuaded them
to come to Israel to work as waitresses and bar staff. They would then smuggle
the women into Israel via Egypt and Turkey.
However, once in Israel, the
women were sold to escort services in the central region, where they were forced
to work as prostitutes.
In Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Judges Chaled
Kabub, Daphna Avnieli and Meir Yifrach said Saban was guilty of a large number
of serious human trafficking crimes – including false imprisonment, possession
of premises for prostitution, money laundering, conspiracy to commit a crime,
causing a person to leave a country for prostitution or slavery, causing a
person to engage in prostitution, confiscating a passport, and harassing a
Saban was the leader of “ugly and contemptible” criminal
activity, Kabub said.
For many years, the judge said, Saban developed
international contacts that enabled him to run huge trafficking operations in
Israel and overseas.
Since 2000, Saban had been the dominant figure in
the trafficking ring, and had been the one who connected with criminals overseas
to bring the women to Israel, the judges noted.
For these reasons, Kabub
said, Saban should face the maximum punishment under the law.
held that Saban will spend a total of 18 years and seven months behind
The judges also ordered Saban to pay a total of NIS 165,000
compensation – NIS 15,000 to each of 11 trafficked women named as complainants
in the indictment.
Saban was sentenced alongside four other defendants,
Shmuel Malka, David Moraidi, Yaakov Moraidi and Golan Ezrad.
sentenced Malka to three years in prison and a NIS 20,000 fine.
Moraidi, who had a central role in the trafficking operations, was sentenced to
10 years in prison.
The court also ordered Moraidi to pay a total of NIS
190,000 compensation – NIS 10,000 each to nine complainants, plus a fine of NIS
Yaakov Moraidi, who was brought into the gang by his brother
David, was sentenced to six years in prison, and ordered to pay a total of NIS
45,000 compensation and a NIS 60,000 fine. He ran the prostitution operations
and was in daily contact with the trafficked women in Israel, the court
Ezrad, whom the judges said was a “low ranking” gang member,
received a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of NIS 100,000.
sentencing Saban and his fellow defendants, the judges undertook a review of
international legislation regarding human trafficking, and cited paragraph 4 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which deals with slavery. “No one
shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be
prohibited in all their forms,” the article reads.
The judges noted that
the prohibition against human trafficking is anchored extensively in
international law, and that Israel has chosen to join forces with international
law enforcement authorities to combat this crime.
MK Orit Zuaretz
(Kadima), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women, said Saban’s
sentence “indicates that the state has declared war on trafficking in
Zuaretz said the 18-year sentence was an “important element in
the state’s struggle against trafficking in women and against exploiting women
“Israel has declared a total war on against trafficking
in women, and the courts have recently demonstrated that they have gotten on
board with changes led by the Justice Ministry,” she said.
joined other countries at the forefront of the uncompromising struggle against
trafficking in women.”
Although there are no official figures, it is
estimated that there are currently more than 15,000 people working in the
prostitution industry in Israel, 5,000 of whom are minors. Israel has been a
destination country for more than 25,000 victims of human trafficking since the
Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.