When 18-month-old Ahmed Khan went missing from outside his Mankhurd home, Mumbai police started searching for clues in the locality. However, they ended unearthing a child trafficking racket spanned across four states. The investigation led to the rescue of four other children, who were about to sold be by a non-government organisation (NGO) in Goa under the pretext of adoption.
Ahmed was playing outside his house when he went missing on December 4. Initially, family thought Yogita Salle had taken him as she would often play and look after him. However, when the Khans inquired with Salle about Ahmed, she said she was clueless about the toddler’s whereabouts.
Unable to trace their son, Ahmed’s parents lodged a police complaint. After questioning various people from the locality, Mankhurd cops zeroed in Salle. But she turned out to be a smooth operator. Salle kept her mobile phone switched on and only contacted her husband, who was also being questioned by the cops. However, cops managed a breakthrough when they traced Salle’s location to Goa against her claims of being in Malad after the kidnapping. They then laid a trap and arrested Ganesh and his friends.
Investigation revealed that it was Salle who had kidnapped Ahmed and then handed him over to Asha Thakur in Kalyan. While Thakur, a nurse, had been part of the racket for long, this was Salle’s first kidnapping. Besides working as a nurse, Thakur would also act a surrogate mother for money. After taking Ahmed into custody, Thakur contacted Prabhavati Naik, a housewife from Karnataka. Thakur and Salle then took Ahmed to Goa, where they met Naik.
“We took Salle in custody for questioning. Though she offered resistance during initial interrogation, she eventually broke down and confessed to the crime,” said Laxman Bhonwad, sub-inspector from Mankhurd police station.
Soon, a police team reached the spot in Goa where Naik was supposed to meet Noorjahan Mulla, the woman running the racket. Mulla ran an NGO through which she approached childless couples in Goa and would sell them the abducted children under the garb of adoption.
“She had circulated her number among locals. She would find childless couples and encourage them to adopt children from her NGO. Mulla would tell the couples that the parents were giving up their kids due to financial woes and were okay with them adopting the child in lieu of monetary help,” said an officer.
Mulla would sell a child for about Rs 2.5 lakh. Salle was promised a commission of Rs50,000. Mulla was caught red-handed with Naik and Thakur on December 9 and all three are in police custody.
“During investigation, we rescued four other children, including a girl. While one of the children was kidnapped from Ahmedabad, one was from Karnataka and the other two from Goa,” said Naresh Kasale, senior inspector at Mankhurd police station.
Cops said Salle was in dire need of money as her husband had been rendered jobless. Sensing an opportunity to make easy money, she decided to kidnap and sell children. Meanwhile, Mulla gave the police the address of her NGO. However, a police team which raided it found nothing.
Police officers suspect that the child trafficking racket had been on for almost two years, during which the accused sold four children, after kidnapping them, to childless couples in Goa.