Israeli modeling agent accused of sex abuse cleared for extradition by Dutch court

Shai Avital has two weeks to appeal decision, faces 26 sexual harassment complaints in Israel; lawyers say he always planned on returning home and ‘proving his innocence’

Israeli modeling agent Shai Avital (C) poses for a picture with Israeli models during an event on a rooftop in Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2017. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
Israeli modeling agent Shai Avital (C) poses for a picture with Israeli models during an event on a rooftop in Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2017. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

A Dutch court ruled Tuesday that modeling agent Shai Avital, arrested in Amsterdam four months ago over dozens of sexual harassment complaints against him in Israel, can be extradited to the Jewish state.

Israel’s State Attorney’s Office had requested Dutch authorities hand over Avital, who was collared in August after being spotted by an Israeli cop in the Netherlands. The agent has two weeks to appeal the decision in a higher Dutch court if he chooses to do so, Hebrew media reported.

Israel’s based its extradition request on two allegations made against Avital of indecent acts, out of 26 total complaints accusing him of rape and other sexual offenses.

Avital’s lawyers said he continues to protest his innocence and advised against reading the Dutch decision as a signal that he was guilty.

“The claims raised in the Dutch court are mainly legal and only address the issue of his extradition. The discussion has nothing to do with the question of his innocence, which he has claimed throughout the process. Shai never had any intention of not returning to Israel and proving his innocence,” attorneys Sassy Gez and Sharon Nahari said.

Avital’s August arrest in the Netherlands came more than a year after the Israel Police issued an initial arrest warrant, and three months after an international Interpol warrant was issued against him.

Hagit Pe’er, chair of the Na’amat women’s organization, praised the Dutch court’s ruling. “The complainants are entitled to see this alleged serial sex offender brought to court in Israel after he fled to avoid facing the serious charges against him,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

The modeling agent holds a Portuguese passport and had previously said that he would fight efforts to extradite him to Israel. 

Police launched a criminal investigation into Avital in July 2021 after Channel 13 news released evidence of Avital sending models threatening messages, including police complaints ready to be submitted if they were to accuse him of sexual abuse.

Avital was living in Hungary when he was told by Israeli authorities to return immediately to Israel, where he would be taken into custody and questioned over the allegations. Despite his lawyers previously saying that he would come to Israel if summoned, he remained overseas.

In leaked text messages, Avital appeared to boast that he had connections with the police and was not afraid of any complaints against him.

Israeli modeling agent Shai Avital (right) poses with models, during an event on a rooftop in Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2017. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90/ File)

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 his office. The incident was apparently kept under wraps, and Avital continued his career as an agent.

Messages of a sexual nature allegedly sent by Avital to several women, including minors, were also shown by the network.

Several women also claimed Avital exposed himself in front of them, including at least one case that resulted in them having sex afterward, which continued regularly after Avital promised 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 span the past two decades.

Ash Obel contributed to this report.

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