Police crack int'l sex-trade ring

Tel Aviv police have cracked what they say is a multi-million dollar international network that traded in women from Belarus. Police commander Eduard Pliner said officers arrested three people in connection with the ring last week, with the leader being Belarus-born Bavel Chivas, who lives in Tel Aviv and is about 30. The details of the case had been under a gag order that was lifted on Sunday by Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court. The arrests followed a lengthy operation that was carried out in cooperation with the Belarus police, said Pliner. "The ring has been operating for a number of years and we have been following them for a year and a half," he said. However, he declined to disclose the details of the operation. In total, the police have arrested 11 people in the last month and a half, said Pliner, adding that the three arrested last week were remanded in custody until Tuesday and the others have been indicted and are in custody until next Sunday. Belarus police arrested two Israelis and one Belarussian several months ago, including Bavel's brother Arkady, and the three have already been tried and sentenced to between nine and 14 years. The network smuggled dozens of women from Belarus to the rest of Europe and then to Israel via the border with Egypt. When they got to Israel, the women worked as prostitutes. Pliner said that the ring was one of the major networks in Israel, but that he didn't know how much the arrests would hit the industry as a whole. "It can help," was all he said.