Photo Credit: William Murphy via Flickr
Flora Women's Mini Marathon - June 2011 (Illustration only)

A resident of Ramat Gan, 51, who used to be an Israeli female athletic champion, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of running a women’s human trafficking network. She was remanded for four days on Monday, Kan 11 News reported. Eight other suspects were arrested Sunday on suspicion being part of the same network.

In 2017, the same suspect was charged with trafficking in women, pimping and prostitution, but the indictment was dropped.

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Police suspect that the network brought women from abroad to Israel to provide sex services in apartments in Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva and Ra’anana, under the guise of massage services. The 50-year-old gang leader was not just a former athletic champion but also trained young female gymnasts. Police believe she instructed the women how to act as part of her network.

Israel’s Athletics Association issued a response to the arrest, stating: “The athlete in question was an athlete in the past, but she and the association have no connection whatsoever at present. The Athletics Association regrets hearing about the acts attributed to her and strongly objects to them.”

The arrest of the former female champion and the other suspects took place late Sunday afternoon. Police believe the network operated over the past few years. Police succeeded in reaching a number of victims, several of whom are women from Eastern Europe and one Israeli. The women were moved to a safe house.

The covert police investigation opened in the summer of 2019, based on intelligence information. The investigation revealed that the network recruited through ads on Russian-language websites in Israel and abroad.

In addition to the Israel Police, the investigation was also conducted by the Tax Authority and the National Insurance Institute, since the network is believed to be used to launder millions in illegal funds. The money laundering was made through one of the suspects, a small business owner, who used his store to transfer millions of dollars. Among the detainees were several female clerks who coordinated the clients and collected payments.

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