The crime branch has arrested a couple and six of their associates for allegedly running an “organised trafficking syndicate”.
The gang, police said, was suspected to have trafficked more than 5,000 girls from Nepal, Odisha, Karnataka, Assam and Andhra Pradesh, making at least Rs 100 crore from the business.
They have been booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
The couple, Saira Begum and Afaq Hussian, reportedly bought girls for Rs 50,000 from several towns, promising them employment and then allegedly pushed them into prostitution by selling them to clients for Rs 2 lakh each.
The couple, police said, had been into the business for the past 15 years and controlled almost 80 per cent kothas on GB Road through their network of agents.
The victims were confined in hidden cells at the kothas, locked up in almirahs, thrashed, intoxicated and starved for days before they were forced to entertain clients without protection.
Joint commissioner of police, crime branch, Ravindra Yadav, said the department took up a study to identify the main perpetrators and beneficiaries of this illegal trade, when they zeroed in on the couple. The team then conducted raids on August 25 and made arrests.
Begum, police said, controlled the business closely through their handpicked kotha managers called nayikas and assistants. The couple had earlier been arrested by the crime branch in two cases of trafficking of minor girls reported in 2013. But the arrest did not deter then from running the business.
“To avoid legal action the couple had transferred the ownership title of their kotha premises to their associates and their management in the name of managers and naiyaks, but controlled the entire business. Afaq used to pay them 15% of the earnings for their roles. This way, they did not come to the notice of the investigating agencies but kept trafficking girls and making money,” Yadav said
Hussain’s driver Ramesh Pandey and manger Vasudev along with four others -- Samshad, Shilpi, Mumtaz and Puja Thapa -- have been arrested.
Begam, police said, came to Delhi from Hyderabad in search of work, after her father’s death, but was forced into prostitution by an agent. Kotha number 58 became her home, where she was forced to entertain clients. In 1990, she was arrested after she was found seducing a client in public in Kamla market.
After this she learnt the tricks of the trade and built a network of her own. Now, she started employing girls at the kotha, where she once herself worked as a sex worker.
She was again arrested in case in 2001 and eight girls from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Nepal were rescued from her Kotha. She was convicted in this case for seven years.
“It was at kotha No.58 when Saira met Afaq Hussain, who then worked as a contractor, and fell in love. The two got married in 1999 and started assisting each other in the business. They then expanded and hired managers, nayikas and traffickers to work for them,” an investigator said.
In 2003, the couple purchased kotha number 57 and started operating from there. When Begum was in jail, Afaq looked after the prostitution racket with the help of his different associates. After her release, the couple restricted their visits to kothas to prevent from being exposed. It is then when they hired a dozen employees to work for them.
Rishikant, activist, Shaktivahini, said, “How did a couple manage to earn Rs 100 crore with the business and the local police had no clue? This case needs investigation from the higher authorities. A joint committee involving inter-state delegates needs to be constituted and the 5,000 girls who were trafficked should be documented.”