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Updated: May 10, 2013 02:42 IST

Breakthrough in sex trade case; main accused held

    Anand Haridas
    Nidhi Surendranath
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Lissy Sojan, accused of trafficking Malayali women at the police station after she was arrested from Aluva on Thursday.
The Hindu
Lissy Sojan, accused of trafficking Malayali women at the police station after she was arrested from Aluva on Thursday.

The Crime Branch has arrested the main accused in a case registered for trafficking women to West Asian countries for sex trade.

The breakthrough comes when the case is likely to be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Lissy Sojan, 40, of Vadakkanchery in Thrissur, who operated under aliases Leena Basheer and Aswathy, was arrested by the Crime Branch, Organised Crime Wing-II team under Superintendent of Police Alex K. John from near Aluva. She was planning to surrender before the court.

The accused has three cases against her. She was wanted in a case for her alleged role in forging the passport of a woman from Kazhakoottam and smuggling her to Sharjah through the Cochin International Airport in June 2012 for sex trade. She is also wanted for allegedly trafficking women for sex trade.

Lissy Sojan will be produced before the court on Friday and the Crime Branch will seek her custody for detailed interrogation.

The State government might transfer the three cases involving Lissy Sojan to the CBI along with the human trafficking case in which A.P. Ajeeb, a Civil Police Officer, is the main accused. The Crime Branch is learnt to have filed a report that Raju Mathew, the Sub-Inspector who helped Lissy Sohan to smuggle women without documents, could also be involved in the trafficking case along with Ajeeb.

Ajeeb is accused of human trafficking in connivance with travel agents misusing his official position at the Cochin International Airport between 2007 and 2011. Even though Ajeeb is learnt to have given statements against many of his seniors in the trafficking case, the only other person arrested in the case till date was someone working on contract for Saudi Airlines.

The case against Lissy was that she lured the woman from Kazhakootam, promising a job as domestic help. She then tampered with the passport left with her by another woman from Kattappana for renewal. She replaced the photo on the passport with that of the woman from Kazhakoottam and smuggled the woman through CIAL with the help of the sub-inspector. The woman was arraigned as first accused in the forgery case and a witness in the rape case. The case for trafficking of women for sex trade was registered at the Crime Branch headquarters.

Madam in net, but her men are still out there

The details of the Lissy Sojan racket became known to the State after a 19-year-old girl from Thiruvananthapuram was detained at the Mumbai airport in July last year on charge of travelling with a fake passport.

Over the last 10 months, the police uncovered an international sex racket operating in Dubai, Sharjah, Muscat, and Ajman. The kingpin of the racket has been named by the police as Lissy Sojan, accused in Kerala of trafficking Malayali women for her prostitution racket in the Gulf. The Hindu last month published a report based on a letter by a Gulf Malayali accusing an Indian Consulate official in Dubai of aiding the racket. The official threatened the Malayali home-maker for trying to rescue a woman forced into prostitution by Lissy Sojan. On Thursday, Lissy Sojan was arrested in Aluva while waiting to meet a lawyer.

Lissy has been allegedly operating a sex racket in the Gulf for over 10 years. Running parallel to the prostitution ring was a trafficking racket that supplied women from Kerala, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and other places to Lissy’s thriving business.

Accounts of her victims from Kerala helped piece together her modus operandi. Lissy had a network of agents, usually middle-aged women who had been prostitutes under Lissy’s ring. These agents approached vulnerable women with promises of jobs in the Gulf. The 19-year-old victim from Thiruvananthapuram was told she could work as a cleaner in Muscat. A similar promise was made to a woman from Kattappana by a woman who used to frequent the shop where she worked. With the help of people who forged documents and corrupt emigration officials, Lissy ensured that the women made their way to the Gulf.

The victim from Kattappana said Lissy picked her up from the airport at Muscat and took her to a flat, where she confiscated her passport. Lissy’s women were kept cooped up in a flat, while she herself moved between flats in various places to elude the police. “We were sometimes forced to have sex with more than 20 men a day,” said a victim. The victims were given little food, no money, and were never let out of the sight of a bunch of goons. A victim of the racket recounted how a pregnant teenager was forced to deliver her baby in one of Lissy’s flats with no medical assistance.

Even letting a woman escape was a part of Lissy’s ploy, said the victim. Lissy had her friends in the Dubai police and emigration, she said. When a victim is detained in Dubai sans passport, Lissy demanded huge sums of money from the victim’s family in return for their passports. Those who cannot pay the money are detained at the airport for a period of 29 days, after which they are deported back to India. The Kattappana victim, who identified a man named Sethulal as a key member of Lissy’s gang, said she got threats even after she made it back to Kerala and that Lissy’s network was still active in Kerala and the Gulf.

The police have so far arrested Sethulal, woman agent Santha, two police officers from Nedumbassery airport besides Lissy.

Lissy’s arrest, however, throws up more question. Are the police probing Indian and Malayali officials in that country who may be part of this ring? Lissy’s victims have said she flew women out of Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Delhi airports as well. Did she have help from officials at these airports?

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