Police have busted a sex trafficking ring that allegedly brought dozens of women from Ukraine to Israel for prostitution, according to a Friday report.
The so-called “Ibiza Escort” agency was headed by a 41-year-old from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, who has been identified only by the Hebrew initials “Aleph Shin.”
The crime ring allegedly made contact with the women while they were in Ukraine, brought the women to Israel to work as prostitutes, arranged their living situation in Israel and ferried them from customer to customer, Channel 13 news reported.
The Israelis found the women with the help of intermediaries in Ukraine, who sent videos and images of the women.
The women, some as young as 18, were advertised on the “Ibiza Escort” website and were paid some NIS 800-1,500 ($231-434) per hour for their services. About NIS 100 would go to the driver, and the rest would be split evenly between the woman and the agency.
“The managers also employed people that knew how to promote the group’s site and get as much money as possible from online advertisements. In a very short period of time, they made millions,” said Tzahi Tal of the Tel Aviv police.
In recent months, “Aleph Shin” raked in some NIS 11.6 million (approximately $3.38 million), the report said.
Though pimping, sex trafficking, and running a brothel are punishable under existing Israeli law, prostitution itself remains legal.
In December 2018 The Knesset approved a bill that punishes ”johns” caught hiring sex workers.
The bill criminalizes procuring the services of a prostitute, as well as presence in a location chiefly used for prostitution, such as a brothel.
First-time offenders are to be fined NIS 2,000 ($530), with the sum doubled for repeat offenses within three years. Prosecutors will also be empowered to indict prostitution clients in certain cases, with a maximum penalty fine of NIS 75,300 ($20,400).
In 2016, the Welfare Ministry estimated there were 11,420-12,730 sex workers driving the country’s NIS 1.2 billion ($318 million) industry.
According to that report, 71 percent of prostitutes said they began sex work out of financial desperation, and 76% said they would leave the industry if they could.