The head of an international child trafficking racket, which sold at least 300 poor children to customers in the United States, has been arrested by the Mumbai Police. The child traffickers were charging their U.S.-based clients Rs 45 lakh for each child, the Times of India reported.
The fate of the children is not known yet, the report said. Four other members of the group, led by Gujarat-based Rajubhai Gamlewala alias Rajubhai, were earlier arrested in March after a tip-off from an actress.
Gamlewala, the kingpin of the racket, started the practice of child trafficking in 2007. He has been selling children in the age group of 11-16 years belonging to poor families. He was booked under IPC’s Sections 34 (criminal act with common intention) and 373 (buying minors for prostitution).
Gamlewala ran a well-organized scheme to send minors abroad. After getting a demand from a U.S.-based client, he would direct his gang members to find a poor family, usually in Gujarat, which was ready to sell a child. “Finding it difficult to take care of them, their parents or guardians would sell them,” the publication quoted a police officer as saying.
It is not clear what the families were getting paid for selling a child.
The gang then arranged passports for the children. Families, who were ready to rent out their children’s passports were identified and the passport of a child who carried some resemblance with the victim was selected. The appearance of the victim was further altered using make-up to get a stronger resemblance.
A carrier was then deployed to take the child to America and return the passport to the concerned family after coming back. The police are not sure about how the person managed to get the immigration stamp on the children’s passports while returning without them.
Some members of the group were nabbed earlier by the police on getting a tip-off from actress Preeti Sood. She was informed by a friend about two minors getting make-up done at a salon in Versova, Mumbai.
“I went there on a suspicion that the girls were being readied for brothels. But once there, I realized that the racket was bigger than I thought,” Sood told the publication. She added that three men were also present at the salon to instruct the staff regarding the make-up.
“When I asked, the men claimed they were sending the children to their parents in the United States. I asked them to accompany me to the police station, but they refused. I managed to stop two of the men and called the police. Meanwhile, the third escaped with the girls,” Sood said. The police arrested Amir Khan (26), Tajuddin Khan (48), Afzal Shaikh (35) and Rizwan Chotani (39). Amir Khan is the son of a retired sub-inspector.
Gamlewala was using a WhatsApp number to communicate with his men and this number helped the police to track him.
“Gamlewala has been arrested before. In 2007, he was caught in Mumbai for passport forgery. We were led to his latest racket because of the March arrests,” DCP (Zone IX) Paramjit Singh Dahiya said, according to the report.
Trafficking of woman and children from India is a big challenge for the authorities. In April this year, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against five people for allegedly trying to send 11 teenager boys from Punjab to the United States on the pretext of an educational trip.
In March, Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi, who was popular in the 1990s, was granted bail after being sentenced to two years in prison by a Patiala court for human trafficking in 2003. In February this year, seven people, including three women, were given rigorous imprisonment by a CBI court in Kerala for supplying women to brothels located in Gulf countries from 2009 to 2012.