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International sex trafficking network exposed

The Mumbai police with the assistance from IJM achieved a much-awaited breakthrough with the arrest of key masterminds behind a major Indo-Bangladeshi sex trafficking network in the months of September and October (2018).

“This network is potentially the biggest trafficking network to have ever been exposed by the Maharashtra police and the team are now meticulously following up on all leads that each arrest provides”, says Sanjay Macwan, Regional Director for IJM North India.

The series of arrests began on Thursday, 6 September 2018 when a ringleader behind the trafficking of at least 200-250 girls from Bangladesh to India, was arrested by the Vasai crime branch of the Palghar police. Shaidul Sheikh, 38, had been under surveillance for a year and a half since IJM Mumbai provided information to the police regarding his involvement in the network. Sheikh was arrested through the police’s continued surveillance, which included tracking of phone records and bank transactions, Sheikh was arrested.

The trafficking network operates through members who lure vulnerable Bangladeshi girls from poor families by promising them a better life. These traffickers then transfer the girls across the border into West Bengal’s Nadia District who are then sold to agents and brothel keepers. These victims are then trapped in commercial sexual exploitation all across Mumbai as well as other parts of Maharashtra.

The Palghar police have been collaborating with other police stations in Maharashtra and other States of India to gather information on Mr. Sheikh and his associates. Information gathered by the police and external informants has revealed that Mr. Sheikh is named as absconding accused in at least three cases of human trafficking registered in Mumbai.

Held in police custody by D.B Marg police station Mr. Sheikh admitted to human trafficking, this led to a crucial development in the investigation through which seven of his accomplices were arrested on the morning of Tuesday, 18 September. These accomplices had also been under thorough surveillance and were known criminals. On 8 October, a month after Mr. Sheikh’s arrest, another kingpin and accomplice, Shahidul Sardar, was arrested near the border of Bangladesh.

On Friday 12 October, the Thane City Anti-Human Trafficking Cell (AHTC) rescued two victims of commercial sexual exploitation and during this operation arrested five Bangladeshi’s who were found at the scene of the crime. Whilst the accused were held in police custody it became apparent that one accused arrested by the AHTC was actually another critical mastermind of the Indo-Bangladeshi network. This information was shared between the AHTC and Vasai crime branch and Imdadul Nurul Islam who is a brother of Shaidul Sheikh is now under arrest.

There are five suspected brothers who play critical roles in this network, at this stage two have been arrested. Thirteen more wanted absconding accused are now currently being tracked by the police. There is collaboration occurring across police stations and NGO’s like IJM and Rights Jessore as repatriated survivors who have previously named these accused are being contacted to identify their traffickers.

This is a landmark investigation that has led to a windfall of arrests. The police are efficiently and effectively bringing down an organized network that is responsible for committing atrocities to countless women and young girls. Each arrest provides more insight and information. The destruction of one such trafficking ring could lead to the downfall of several.