TA police raid brothel in massive tax evasion case

Four arrested on suspicion of fraud, later released; police say no sex-related charges to be levied against suspects.

Brothel in Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Brothel in Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tel Aviv Police on Wednesday morning raided what they called “one of the largest brothels” operating in the city, which they said brought in millions of shekels in dirty money.
Police said the raid was carried out by YASSAM special patrol officers, YAMAR special investigative unit detectives and officers from the Tax Authority’s Yahalom enforcement unit. The officers arrested four men that police said are suspected of committing wide-scale tax evasion, but no crimes involving the sex trade itself.
By Wednesday afternoon, the four men were all released by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on the condition that they report for any further questioning with police.
Yoav Kotler, head of the investigative branch of the Tel Aviv district police, said that the charges do not include any sort of human trafficking, adding that the women all willingly worked at the brothel “just like in 99 percent of the prostitution industry in Israel.” Kotler said the case is a financial one dealing with tax offenses.
If the brothel was in fact one of the largest in Tel Aviv, it was hard to tell on Wednesday.
The brothel was located in a small basement apartment on Wolfson Street in south Tel Aviv and employed five or six women per shift. It had previously been located at a building on Ben- Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv that is now the location of the 10- room Comfort Hotel, police added.
The brothel was located in a four-story building crammed with illegally divided apartments rented out largely to African migrants. While the brothel remained closed Wednesday following the police raid, just two doors down a separate large brothel remained open, where inside two middle-aged prostitutes and a female employee said they had not been visited by police and had not heard of any sort of raid earlier in the day.
Kotler said that police had not made a conscious effort not to raid that brothel, adding that investigators are still working in the field and will act elsewhere how they see fit.
Prostitution in Israel is legal, but there have been several bills proposed in the Knesset that would criminalize the purchase of sexual services, though none have yet become law.
Upstairs from the brothel, the owner of a small family-owned metal working shop said he didn’t see the raid take place, but that the night before, the whorehouse was packed with Palestinian customers he said came in to celebrate after the end of Ramadan.
Moti, the middle-aged owner of a paint store between the two brothels, issued a hearty defense of the two neighborhood whorehouses, saying “they didn’t cause any problems, Sudanese guys would go there and get relief instead of going out and raping, what now?” He also said that because of the whorehouse “there were always people here driving around or walking back and forth, people are less likely to rob you if there’s people everywhere.”
A website for the whorehouse calls the establishment “Angels of Tel Aviv,” and features nude pictures of what it says are 33 different women available for NIS 250 each.