ABC NEWS: 20/20
June 2, 1999
DIANE SAWYER Every day, young women in the former Soviet Union follow their dreams of a better, more prosperous life to countries far from home. But as we reported once before, some of these young women arrive in a new country and find themselves trapped, sold to a brothel owner, becoming part of a thriving international trade in human beings. It is estimated that 1 million women worldwide are bought and sold every year in countries from Europe to Asia to the Middle East. Tonight, we are going to revisit Cynthia McFadden’s investigation into the global trafficking in women and take you inside a sophisticated network where human lives are always for sale.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, ABCNEWS (VO) Saturday night in Tel Aviv, a city with beauty and an ugly underbelly. This alleyway leads there, to one of the busiest and most profitable brothels in Israel. Nearly 30,000 men come here each year for sex.
JACOB GOLAN, This place is like a restaurant.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (interviewing) Like a restaurant?
JACOB GOLAN: Yes. I think that man need to make sex every two, three days, every five days. So if he cannot go to find somebody outside, it’s better if he come here and pay.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Meet Jacob Golan, who owns this place and these women. That’s right. Jacob Golan bought these women and hundreds like them from an organized crime network, a network that traffics in women from the former Soviet Union. Jacob Golan is a modern—day slave owner. He doesn’t see himself this way, but consider the facts. He takes their passports, pays them only when he feels like it, prohibits them from leaving him and resells them at will.
JACOB GOLAN We need a lot of girls, and in Israel we cannot find so many girl to give this service, so we have to bring girls from other countries, like Russia.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) The trail that led us to Jacob Golan began when we first saw these videotapes shot over the past few years. These shocking undercover tapes, first broadcast on ABCNEWS, document how nearly a quarter of a million young women from the former Soviet Union are being sold into a global sex industry each year.
GILLIAN CALDWELL (PH), HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY This is today’s modern slave industry. Women are being bought and sold as commodities around the world every single day.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Gillian Caldwell, a human rights lawyer, and her colleagues at the Global Survival Network, made these tapes by forming a dummy corporation, pretending they were interested in buying women. Their undercover cameras, the faces of their contacts are obscured, caught a massive criminal network in operation inside Russia. From this woman, who says her government friends can get her papers for underage girls, to this woman, who hands over young women to traffickers for $2,000 apiece, and this man, who says he can make sure the Russian police stay out of the way.
RUSSIAN MAN (Through translator) We don’t have any problems with criminal groups because they know we work very closely with the police and the federal security service.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Caldwell told us that many of the women, once sold abroad, were routinely raped, beaten and held in slave—like conditions. We wanted to see for ourselves how the system actually worked. Our investigation led us to Israel, one of the biggest markets for women from the Eastern Bloc, where we met a 19—year—old from Lithuania named Gedriya (ph), forced to work as a prostitute until she escaped. (interviewing)
GEDRIYA (Through translator) I was beaten up, strangled. They would leave me without any food and water. I was locked in a room. I thought I was going to die there.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) The young women, sometimes mere teenagers, are an easy mark, lured by hopes of a prosperous life abroad, impossible at home.
GILLIAN CALDWELL Routinely there are ads promising lucrative opportunities abroad. In many instances, women may be promised jobs as waitresses or au pairs or dancers. In other instances, they are informed that they’re going to be working as escorts and are willing to do so. They do not know and cannot comprehend the conditions under which they’ll be working. They don’t know that there is an organized criminal syndicate, in many cases, behind the business. They don’t know that they won’t be free to leave and they don’t know that they’re not going to earn any money.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) It is a frightening world these young women enter, a world populated by men like this one, shot from behind at his insistence. Just out of camera range, his men surround our car. The trafficker, who brings the girls from the former Soviet Union through his travel agencies and sells them to Israeli pimps. He readily admitted his role.
ISRAELI PIMP (Through translator) Do you sell the girls and their passports?
ISRAELI TRAFFICKER (Through translator) Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) He told us one more shocking thing—besides operating in Israel, he sells girls in Europe, Canada and the United States.
JACOB GOLAN When these guys bring these girls from Russia, they promise them many things, like $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 every month. After they arrive to Israel, they see that they can work for nothing because I know many guys that take everything from the girls, even the tips.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (interviewing) They are slaves, essentially.
JACOB GOLAN Yes. Like they are slaves.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Organized prostitution is a crime in Israel, and an estimated 80 percent of the prostitutes in Israel are from the former Soviet Union.
JACOB GOLAN Do you want to see the rooms before or...
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN Yeah. Show me the rooms.
JACOB GOLAN Okay.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Golan showed us where the tourist girls, as he calls them, hide when the police raid his place.
JACOB GOLAN And she can escape from here to the other side.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) The extraordinary access Golan gave 20/20 came with one condition ~ an agreement we will not broadcast his interview in Israel. (interviewing)
JACOB GOLAN No. This business belong to other guys from Russia.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN The Russian Mafia?
JACOB GOLAN Yes. They bring the girls from airport, and they sell the girls.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN They sell them?
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN For how much money?
JACOB GOLAN It depends how the girl look like. It’s between $5,000 and $15,000.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN And you pay?
JACOB GOLAN Yes. We pay money, and we buy the girls.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Golan purchases the women, who receive, he says, their tips and $250 a week until they pay back their purchase price. Often it takes up to a year. Golan deducts other fees for clothes or breaking the rules so that sometimes he pays them nothing. Frequently owners like Golan resell the girls every few months so they can never pay off their debt. A beautiful woman, Golan says, can have between 10 and 15 clients a night, each of whom pays about $50 for half an hour of sex. His best customers may surprise you ~ Orthodox Jews. The business is profitable. On a good day, Golan can gross as much as $20,000. Sources tell 20/20, organized crime is heavily involved. (interviewing)
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN The Israeli Mafia?
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
JACOB GOLAN Do they have a financial interest in this place?
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN How much do you have to pay a month?
JACOB GOLAN They start always 5 percent or 6 percent and slowly, slowly they want more and more. Because of this reason, we stop to pay.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN What could that amount to, $20,000 a month, as much as that?
JACOB GOLAN Something like this.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN That would be close?
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Golan, whose son is in business with him, says they have worked out a partnership deal with the Israeli Mob, a deal he discussed openly. Actually, he is proud of his work. His young women, he says, are not beaten and are treated far better than in most other such establishments. In fact, the mother of his toddler is one of the Russian women who used to work for him. Several of the women who work for him now told us horror stories about previous owners, nightmares like 20—year—old Katya’s, sold 10 times in 11 months and never paid. (interviewing)
KATYA (Through translator) From 12:00 noon until 6:00 in the morning.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN Twelve noon to 6:00 am? 18 hours a day?
KATYA (Through translator) We lived there. We didn’t leave there because we slept there. We ate there. We did our jobs there.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN You slept in the beds that you turned the tricks in?
KATYA (Through translator) Yeah. They were afraid to leave, afraid they’d be beaten. I know there was one girl before me who got beaten up pretty badly. It was even worse than what they did to me. They pumped her up with tranquilizers and went at her.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) And yet, the young women rarely go to the police. Golan’s women are constantly guarded, lest they, as he put it, escape. Police sources told us there are many other reasons. The young women are in the country illegally and many grew up in the former Soviet Union fearing the police. In addition, sometimes organized crime figures have threatened to harm them or their families if they talk. (interviewing) How many Russian girls would you say the police have arrested and taken downtown to be deported?
JACOB GOLAN From my place? Last two years, around 100.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN A hundred young women from your place taken to be deported?
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN Have you ever been arrested?
JACOB GOLAN No.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Never arrested, yet engaged in an illegal business, prostitution. And the fact that he is buying and selling women? As shocking as it may seem, an Israeli law professor told us Israel has no law specifically prohibiting the sale of humans.
JACOB GOLAN True.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN Who can help you get papers so that girls can come in.
JACOB GOLAN Yes.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Golan told us he pays his contact in the Interior Department $1,000 for fake Israel identification papers for each girl. We asked Rafi Cohen of the interior ministry about the allegation. (interviewing)
RAFI COHEN (Through translator) This is just unbelievable. I am certainly ready to check this information. And I promise that if this information is indeed accurate, we will do everything ~ and I mean everything ~ to check this and deal with this in order to stop it at its roots.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) And yet, the trafficking goes on. (interviewing)
RAFI COHEN (Through translator) The solutions that we have right now are basically systemic. One way is to try and prevent their entry. But as a Democratic country, we cannot shut down the borders completely. Those girls who come to Israel have to take the responsibility to find out exactly what they are supposed to be doing in Israel. It’s simply good advice.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN How can you put the responsibility on them? How could they possibly know before they come here that they are going to essentially be sold into slavery and beaten and forced to work and sleep in the same beds?
RAFI COHEN (Through translator) Before I visit a foreign country, I plan it in advance.
GILLIAN CALDWELL Based on our investigation and reports from around the world, there is high—level government complicity in many, many countries. We’re talking complicity in terms of police forces, in terms of immigration authorities and in terms of ministries of foreign affairs. So that kind of complicity absolutely needs to be investigated and needs to be taken very seriously.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) We asked the Israeli consulate in New York to comment. They wrote to us, quote, “Not only the government of Israel oppose this illegal activity, but we are actively combating it.”
But for now, business continues as usual.
JACOB GOLAN They have here a very king—sized bed and TV and bar.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN (VO) Jacob Golan is doing so well he’s expanding his operation, which means soon he’ll be buying even more young women, he hopes from the former Soviet Union.
DIANE SAWYER Since our report aired a year ago, Jacob Golan, who said he had never been arrested, was arrested for running a brothel. He spent just one day in jail and the charges were eventually dropped. We’re told Golan is still in business and the business is apparently thriving.