Former world-class Israeli athlete, Svetlana Gnezdilov, has been identified on Monday as one of the main suspects in a sex trafficking and prostitution probe.
Gnezdilov appeared in the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, where she denied charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, pimping, advertising adult prostitution services, bringing a person into prostitution, permitting premises to be used for prostitution, tax fraud, money laundering, and causing a person to leave their country for purposes of prostitution.
The 51-year-old Ramat Gan resident previously represented Israel in three World Championships and two European Championships.
According to police, an undercover investigation conducted in concert with the Tax Authority and the National Insurance Institute revealed that Gnezdilov and several other suspects operated a sophisticated network in the central cities of Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva, and Ra'anana for several years.
The network’s victims were often recruited through advertising on Russian-language websites in Israel and abroad, under the headline "Masseuses needed - high wages."
The investigation also found that the network often advertised its services on sex and massage portals found on various websites.
Six other suspects were detained in the raid, on suspicion of taking part in the network's operations. Each of the suspects allegedly had a defined role and responsibilities within the prostitution ring.
Those involved in the network are also under investigation for alleged money laundering offenses estimated in the millions, and other tax offenses.
The suspects are also accused of violating public health orders because the network allegedly continued its operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
The main suspect's attorney, Orit Hayon, said that her client denied any connection to trafficking or sex workers and claimed that she was only dealing in massages.