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Criminal Network that Sold Hundreds of Girls Begins to Topple

Jeremy Snell

Mumbai police and the IJM team have secured a much-awaited breakthrough in the fight against sex trafficking this fall.

After more than a year of surveillance, a major trafficking kingpin named Shaidul Sheikh has finally been arrested. Several of his accomplices are also now in custody.

Together, they had made up a powerful, cross-border network that allegedly exploited hundreds of girls in India’s sex industry.

“This network is potentially the biggest trafficking network to have ever been exposed by the Maharashtra state police,” explains Sanjay Macwan, IJM’s director in northern India. “The team are now meticulously following up on all leads that each arrest provides.”

Trafficking Across Borders

IJM and local officials began investigating this network back in May 2017, after hearing reports of five brothers who trafficked minor girls into the Indian sex trade. Two brothers were based in Mumbai, and three others were in Bangladesh.

These traffickers lured vulnerable Bangladeshi girls from poor families with the promise of good jobs and a better life. Once across the border into India, the girls were sold to agents and brothel keepers. They were trapped in commercial sexual exploitation all across Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra state.

Investigations connected Sheikh—the most powerful brother—to nearly 250 girls rescued from sex trafficking over the last nine years.

Several victims in previous IJM cases had mentioned his name, but his power and connections helped him evade all attempts at arrest.

Ending a Reign of Abuse

This year, IJM worked closely with our trusted police partners to begin mapping and infiltrating this private network in depth.

Our team helped gather and analyze evidence over the course of a year, using new technologies, financial research and social media to track the traffickers’ modes of operation. We also gained additional intelligence from several survivors who remember meeting Sheikh.

Police felt secure enough in their evidence to finally apprehend Sheikh on September 6, and seven of his top accomplices were arrested in the following weeks. He eventually admitted to the human trafficking charges and has been remanded to prison pending trial.

Since then, we have been helping authorities gather additional evidence and arrest several more men connected to Sheikh. One main trafficker in Bangladesh was arrested in early October, and a rescue operation later in the month freed two additional girls victimized by this network.

Police are continuing to search for three of Sheikh’s brothers and several other criminals associated with the network. We are excited to see the proactivity of local authorities to collaborate between cities and states to bring these powerful traffickers to justice.

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