14 Israelis accused of running underage sex ring in Colombia


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Six Israelis have been arrested and another eight are wanted by police in Colombia for their part in allegedly running a child sex trafficking ring.

The 14 Israeli suspects and their local accomplices are accused of marketing trips from Israel for tourists interested in having sex with minors who had been forced into drug use and prostitution, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.

“This mafia is responsible for an international network for the sexual exploitation of children and women for commercial purposes,” prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez said. “It was after two years of investigation, which began on June 15, 2016, in Medellin after the death of an Israeli, that we discovered that this [group] sold sexual tourism plans in Medellin and other cities.”

A Colombian police officer who also was arrested allegedly passed classified information to an Israeli citizen, Mor Zohar, one of the suspected ring leaders, allowing him to run the trafficking network without interference from the authorities, the Israeli media reported. One of the Israelis is also being held on suspicion of murder, while others are suspected of money laundering. Interpol has sent out red notices — akin to an international warrant — for the Israeli suspects at large.

Officials seized $45 million worth of assets belonging to the suspects, including properties used for the ring’s activities. The traffickers established tourism sites and hotels throughout the country, giving the operation an outward veneer of respectability. However, at the same time, they targeted boys and girls who came from troubled homes or had a background of financial difficulties and forced them into sex work.

Israeli businessmen and discharged soldiers would stay at hotels, take yacht trips and go to drug- and alcohol-fueled private parties where the minors were offered as sex slaves, the Ynet news site reported.

“Women traffickers were educated in Israel, where prostitution is legal. In Israel, as in the whole world, when the commercial acquisition of the women’s body for a few hours is legitimate, the trafficking of women increases,” said Nitzan Kahana, an attorney for Israel’s nonprofit Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution. Prostitution is also legal and regulated in Colombia.

“This is a wake-up call for the State of Israel to conclude soon with the enactment of the law prohibiting the consumption of prostitution,” the Agencia Judia de Noticias news portal reported.

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