Alleged pimp, human trafficker faces court

Suspect Guy Hassid was arrested in Northern Cyprus for running an international prostitution ring.

GUY HASSID 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Alleged human trafficker and pimp Guy Hassid appeared in an Israeli courtroom for the first time Wednesday, around a year and a half after he was arrested by Turkish authorities for running a prostitution ring that spanned almost a half-dozen countries.
Hassid was finally extradited to Israel Tuesday night, after he and his attorneys had pleaded for well over a year to bring him home to face trial.
The suspect was first arrested in Turkish- controlled northern Cyprus in May 2011, after Israeli police sent his details to Interpol. Police say they believe Hassid was the second-in-command of a massive prostitution ring that had operated in Israel until it moved to northern Cyprus in 2007.
Hassid’s extradition was reportedly held up by the deterioration in ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, as Turkish authorities dragged their feet on carrying out the process.
Hassid first moved to Turkish Cyprus in 2007, when he and organization head Rami Saban began moving their base of operations there in order to avoid the heat of a police crackdown on pimps and traffickers in Israel, Ch.-Insp. Eduard Pliner of the Tel Aviv branch of the YAMAR investigative unit said on Wednesday.
Pliner said police watched the organization move its base to northern Turkey and launched a two-year undercover investigation that spanned four different countries in the former Soviet Union, with officers from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia flying to Israel to take part in the investigation.
Pliner added that members of his team also went undercover in countries in the former Soviet Union where the ring had set up local branches to lure women into working in prostitution against their will.
In 2009, police arrested eight members of the organization in Israel, including Saban, who was later sentenced to 18-and-a-half years in prison. During Saban’s sentencing, the presiding judge referred to him as one of the biggest pimps in the history of the country.
The current case against Hassid only applies to the operations in Cyprus, Pliner said, and not the years before they moved there, when they ran a massive prostitution ring based in Israel with branches across Europe.
After catching word of the arrests, Hassid stayed in north Cyprus, where he managed the Maxim Nightclub in the port town of Kyrenia, which police say was one of the biggest brothels in Europe.
Pliner said that every few months Hassid would bring in a new batch of women, who would work long hours servicing clients at the club.
Police were able to pursue the case after an amendment to the human trafficking law was passed in 2006 which allows Israel to prosecute citizens for trafficking even when committed outside the borders of the state.
Attorney Ness Ben-Nathan said his client has denied any of the charges against him and that at no point did he force women into prostitution.
“These women all knew what they were doing. He [Hassid] used a company in the Ukraine that placed ads for women who wanted to work as hostesses in Turkey, and all of them came legally with work visas put in their passports by the Turkish authorities.”
Ben-Nathan said there was no prostitution at the club, only striptease shows, but added that “the place closed at 1 a.m.. If the dancers there met guys and did stuff with them afterwards its not my client’s responsibility.”
The attorney also dismissed the contention that his client was trying to flee prosecution by staying in Turkish Cyprus, saying “he didn’t flee, just when he heard about the arrests in Israel he decided to stay where he was.”
Hassid’s remand was extended by five days at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, with police saying they need time to play some 15 hours of wiretapped conversations for Hassid.