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Israeli who headed Colombia child prostitution ring arrested in Portugal

Passport photo of Assi Moosh, former Israeli soldier [Elheraldo]

An ex-Israeli soldier wanted in Colombia for heading a child prostitution ring and sex trafficking offences has been arrested in Portugal.

Forty-five-year-old Assi Ben-Mosh – also known as Assi Moosh – was arrested near the Portuguese capital Lisbon on Wednesday during an operation by Spain’s Guardia Civil police force. The Guardia Civil said in a statement that Ben-Mosh is thought to have been hiding on the Spanish island of Ibiza, and then in Barcelona, before eventually being arrested in Portugal this week. It added that Ben-Mosh had been using a fake Israeli ID, the Times of Israel reported yesterday.

Ben-Mosh is wanted by Colombian authorities for running a child prostitution ring in the small fishing village of Taganga, located on the South American country’s Caribbean coast. He, along with a group of ex-Israeli soldiers, reportedly turned the luxury Benjamin Hostel into a “sex and drug den” in which more than 250 underage girls were subjected to sexual exploitation.

The Benjamin Hostel became known to locals as “little Israel”, and acted as a base from which Ben-Mosh ran similar clubs exploiting children in Cartagena, Medellín and the Colombian capital Bogotá. His empire is also thought to have extended to Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.

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In November 2017 Ben-Mosh was deported from Colombia after the authorities labelled him a threat to public order and the security of the state. At the time, local sources reported that he was arrested after arriving at the immigration office in nearby Santa Marta, accompanied by a group of armed men. It was believed he had been trying to obtain Colombian citizenship.

According to Colombia’s national police, Ben-Mosh had raised suspicion after it was discovered that his permits for tourism and hotel operation were obtained through a third party, enabling him to carry out criminal activities undetected for a decade. He was returned to Tel Aviv under escort by immigration officers.

However, in July 2018 Colombian authorities asked Interpol to arrest Ben-Mosh, believing he had continued to manage his illicit operations from afar despite his deportation. The international arrest warrant stated that Ben-Mosh was wanted for drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The call came after three Israelis and 15 others were arrested on suspicion of involvement in sex trafficking in the tourist city of Cartagena. They were arrested from Benjamin Hostel, another establishment of the same name as that run by Ben-Mosh in Taganga.

It is not yet clear whether Ben-Mosh will be extradited to Colombia following his arrest.

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