Israeli modeling agent Shai Avital has been arrested in Amsterdam ahead of his extradition to Israel to face charges in 26 sexual harassment cases, police said Friday.
The arrest in the Netherlands comes more than a year after police issued an arrest warrant for Avital, who portrayed some of the country’s top models.
He was then living in Hungary and the Israeli authorities told him to return to Israel immediately where he would be taken into custody and questioned about the allegations. However, although his lawyers previously said he would come to Israel if summoned, he remained abroad.
Police said Sunday the arrest was the culmination of a joint operation between Israeli and Dutch police.
Avital will remain in custody at least until a hearing on Monday morning, after his lawyer said the hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon had been postponed due to the unavailability of an interpreter.
Police launched the criminal investigation into Avital in July last year after media reports said he had harassed several former clients and colleagues.
Twenty-six separate complaints have now been filed against him.
The investigation, which is being led by the Tel Aviv Police District’s investigative wing, came after Channel 13 published evidence that Avital sent threatening messages to models, including complaints to the police ready to be dropped off, if they accused him of sexual abuse.
In leaked text messages, Avital appeared to brag about having ties to the police and he was unafraid of complaints against him.
According to documents released by the network, in 2009 Avital paid NIS 120,000 ($35,000) to model Israela Avtau after he sexually assaulted her in her office. The incident was apparently kept secret and Avital continued his career as an agent.
Sexual messages allegedly sent by Avital to a number of women, including minors, were also broadcast by the network.
A number of women also claimed that Avital exposed himself in front of them, including at least one instance that led them to have sex afterwards, which continued regularly, after Avital had promised that the apparent victim would be featured on a popular reality show.
Other women accused him of forcibly groping, kissing and licking their faces. The allegations date back two decades.