The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday sentenced the ringleader of an international human trafficking ring to 18 years and seven months in prison.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.Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.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 witness.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.The court held that Saban will spend a total of 18 years and seven months behind bars.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.The court sentenced Malka to three years in prison and a NIS 20,000 fine.David 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 100,000.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 said.Ezrad, whom the judges said was a “low ranking” gang member, received a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of NIS 100,000.In 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 women.”Zuaretz said the 18-year sentence was an “important element in the state’s struggle against trafficking in women and against exploiting women for prostitution.“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.“Israel has 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 1990s.