Police bust ‘sex racket’ at Pune spa, rescue 4 women from Thailand

Chandan Haygunde
The police raided the spot and rescued four women from Thailand, who were in their 30s and 40s (Representational)

A "sex racket" operating from a spa in Viman Nagar area was busted by Pune City Police on Thursday. A 24-year-old woman was arrested and four women from Thailand were rescued during the operation, said police. An offence in this case was lodged at the Viman Nagar police station against the woman and her alleged aide Bantikumar Kantibhai Patel (27), who is on the run. They have been booked under sections 370 and 370 (a), pertaining to trafficking, of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA).

At 6 pm on Thursday, a team from the Vimantal police station raided the spot and rescued four women from Thailand, who were in their 30s and 40s, and sent them to a rescue home.

Police are hunting for Patel, who is suspected to be the owner of the spa, said Senior Police Inspector Dilip Shinde. He said the rescued women from Thailand had come to India on a tourist visa some days ago. Police said the arrested woman, a resident of Kondhwa, hails from Nagaland. In the first information report and in the remand report submitted before the court on Friday, to seek the woman's custody, Pune City Police has said she is a foreigner who belongs to "Nagaland" country.

Explained

While busting such rackets, police target agents

Pune has seen several cases of sex rackets being busted. The modus operandi of such racketeers, as per police, is bringing women from various countries to India on a tourist visa for three months, and then supplying them to customers across India. After the visa period gets over, these women go back to their countries and then try to come back again with new tourist visas. While busting sex rackets, police focus on arresting the agents, not the women, who are sent to a rescue home. Women who are from foreign countries are eventually deported and blacklisted.

The woman was produced before the court on Friday and remanded to police custody till January 16. Among the reasons cited to seek her custody, police have said the arrested woman was a "foreign national". The woman, along with Patel, started the spa and allegedly lured several women into prostitution in Pune and its suburbs, said police.

When pointed out that Nagaland had been named as a foreign country in city police records, Police Inspector Ramesh Sathe said he would make the necessary corrections. This is one of several cases in Pune in the last few years when women from another country were rescued from sex rackets.

On November 22, 2018, a Crime Branch team led by Senior Police Inspector Manisha Zende had, on the basis of a tip-off to Assistant Commissioner of Police (crime) Bhanupratap Barge, rescued three women from Thailand from a massage centre in Viman Nagar. Police had also arrested two alleged sex racket agents from the spot.

In September 2017, police had busted a sex racket at a five-star hotel and rescued women from other countries, including Russia and Uzbekistan, as well as from India. As many as 14 persons were arrested in connection with the case and police are still looking for 10 more suspects, suspected to be agents with links to international sex rackets.

The stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) had been slapped on the accused in the case.
In June 2017, Crime Branch officials had rescued five women from Thailand after busting a sex racket at a spa in Pimple Saudagar. Police said the "agents" used websites and various social media platforms to attract customers.