After drugs and rock ’n’ roll, sex has caught the eye of the police in Pune.
The Crime Branch last week unearthed a major Internet-based sex racket of countrywide proportions involving models-turned-television actresses — three were arrested.
The action followed last month’s arrest of two Mumbai-based models and a tout from the film industry, and the detention earlier in the year of over 150 young people in a rave party that had set off a chain of narcotics seizures, all of which the police said were signs of lifestyle crimes coming to booming Pune, some 170 km from Mumbai.
The latest arrests came after a complaint against a website, chamadi.com, by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha city chief Sandeep Khardekar. The police said models from various cities across the country had posted their cellular phone numbers to offer “escort” services to “discerning gentlemen”.
The website invites successful men who were pressed for time, and could not manage long-term relationships, to try its services.
A trap was laid on Tuesday and models-turned-actresses Sapana Tiwari, Renu Mirza and Pooja Sonugar from the Hindi serial Meri Doli Tere Angana arrested along with middlemen Ramprasad Thapa of Pune and Balaji Shinde of Mumbai.
The website, which was still up and offering services, admitted it was into escort services but denied the arrested people were connected with it. The police said Tiwari and Mirza were from Mumbai while Sonugar was from Kolkata.
“The well-heeled form the main clientele of models operating through such websites. The charges range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh for a night,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Anil Kumbhare said.
Despite the police action, chamadi.com continued to operate. It featured the name of its chairman, Sameer, and gave a contact number. While a woman on the other end of the line declined to disclose her name, only saying the escort service was currently being offered in Mumbai, a man soon responded saying he was Sameer Nayar and said he had no qualms about running the service.
“I operate several such websites, with services across the globe. In many western countries, the flesh trade is legal. If it is illegal here, it is the problem of the government, not mine. They should amend the law,” Nayar said. “The need for sex is universal, therefore I am operating this portal and have no hesitation in admitting it.”
Nayar’s website said it offered escort service in various cities. Pune was introduced as a “cultural city… that carries a rich historical legacy characterised with glorious rule of Marathas. Pune contributed significantly to the freedom movement and produced heroes like Tilak, Sane Guruji and Chapekar brothers. Today this city is home to numerous prestigious educational institutions and hence is also known as the Oxford of the East.”
Expressing surprise on the website still being operational, Kumbhare said they were busy with Diwali duty, but would soon shut down the website and arrest the “main accused”.
A senior police official who declined to be named as there was a possibility of further investigations, said the high-profile models on the website were sought by many students from affluent families who came to Pune from other states. Pune is known as an important educational centre, besides being an information technology hub that ensures it houses many well-paid professionals.