Well-known Israeli modeling agent arrested in Amsterdam
Police in Amsterdam arrested a 44-year-old Israeli man suspected of sexual offenses in his own country. His arrest was made at the request of Israeli authorities.
Israeli media said the man in custody is the nationally known modeling scout Shai Avital. He is reportedly wanted in Israel after 26 women made accusations against him. Haaretz reported that three of them filed complaints with police alleging Avital raped them.
The Public Prosecution Service in Amsterdam would neither confirm nor deny that Avital is in custody. The man will be brought before the examining magistrate in Amsterdam on Friday. Israel has requested his extradition. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the Israeli authorities suspect the man of two sex crimes, and the request to arrest him was based solely on that.
The investigation into Avital began 13 months ago after two television channels investigated him. An arrest warrant was issued against Avital more than a year ago, when he resided in Hungary, Israeli media reported. The Israeli authorities are said to have ordered him to return to his homeland so that he could be questioned about the allegations, but their demands were made in vain.
The extradition process in the Netherlands can take several months. Israeli police agreed to detail the allegations before the extradition takes place, Haaretz reported. Avital "refutes all allegations made against him and is convinced he will eventually be exonerated in court. He has been the subject of a show-trial by the media, which has severely tainted information obtained by police in its investigations in the case," his attorneys said in a statement to the Israeli news outlet.
The television report investigating Avital said that in 2009 Avital paid the equivalent of about 35 thousand dollars to Israela Avtau, a model he allegedly assaulted sexually while in his office. The incident and payoff went undisclosed. He also reportedly sent messages of a sexual nature to adult women and underage girls. Several women also accused him of exposing himself to them, the Times of Israel said.
"Our client, who left Israel legally, hopes that law enforcement authorities will conduct their investigation professionally, without being influenced by the media-led lynching-campaign he has been the target of," his attorneys, Sasi Gaz and Sharon Nahari, told Haaretz.
Avital's modeling agency is said to represent a number of top Israeli models.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times