(photo credit: AP)
Eight Israelis were indicted on Sunday for operating a multi-million dollar international human trafficking ring over the last decade involving hundreds of women.
The chief suspect in the case, Rami Saban, 35, from Megadim, was charged with 23 felony offenses, including conspiracy to commit a crime, operating a brothel, managing a brothel, solicitation, forcing a person to leave their country of residence to work as a prostitute, assault, forgery, money laundering and harassing witnesses.
The three key suspects are alleged to have pocketed between NIS 1 million and NIS 3m. each.
The suspects forced scores of women to leave their homes to work as prostitutes, smuggled them across international borders, and employed them as prostitutes in 12 brothels in the Tel Aviv area, according to the charge sheet filed in a Tel Aviv court. Hundreds of women worked at the brothels over the years.
The 60-page indictment was filed after a suspect in the case turned state witness as a part of a plea bargain agreement.
The suspects allegedly operated the brothels for the past decade ago, as well as a separate phone sex service.
The women were smuggled into Israel from the former Soviet Union via Sinai.
The women were kept - and often imprisoned - in Tel Aviv apartments that were rented for them by the suspects, the charge sheet relates.
The prostitutes charged NIS 100 to 400 per client, and are believed to have had dozens of clients each day.
The women had to hand over the money to the suspects, who kept the vast majority of it for themselves.
Some of the women were lied to about why they were being brought to Israel, with one told that she was going to work as a caretaker, and another as a waitress, according to the indictment.
Saban allegedly put a gun to one woman's head and beat her when he suspected she had tried to escape.
In another case, he is alleged to have assaulted two women for refusing to have sex with each other in front of clients, and then locking one of them in an office for a week as punishment.
A year and a half ago, several of the suspects allegedly opened a brothel in Cyprus to conceal the money they were making off the women in Israel.
The suspects exploited the 25 women in Cyprus, too, forcing them to work during their periods, and depriving them of or reducing their meager income if they complained about their treatment.
Saban was convicted back in 2001 of trafficking in women and sentenced to 31 months in jail, and was found guilty of operating a brothel a year later.
He is suspected of carrying out the latest offenses while serving the additional suspended sentences from his previous convictions.
Prosecutors asked the court to remand the suspects in custody through the duration of their trial, saying they pose danger to the public in light of the severity and number of felonies they allegedly committed.