Telangana

Tollywood’s ‘flesh trade links’: more than meets the eye

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Actor Sri Reddy’s allegations of a ‘casting couch’ system in the Telugu film industry, Tollywood, stirred up heated debates in Hyderabad a few weeks ago.

Now, with the arrest of a Telugu couple by the police in Chicago, ‘for importing some Telugu actresses for prostitution’ suggests her claims were not without any basis. On the face of it, Ms. Sri Reddy’s charges and the organised sex racket involving the couple appear unconnected. Yet, both episodes make it clear that Hyderabad is not completely free from flesh trade with direct or indirect links to Tollywood.

“From old style methods of operating brothels in known places, pimps have reached the stage of operating sex rackets by posting advertisements online and using social media platforms,” Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat, known for his anti-human trafficking operations, says. Brokers would rent flats in remote localities, bring women from other cities through their network of agents and supply them to known customers.

 

Casting their net wider, brokers have begun procuring foreigners for flesh trade. Recently, 40 women from Thailand were rescued by the Hyderabad police from brothels run in the guise of spa centres. In the past three years, women from Uzbekistan, Morocco and Tanzania were rescued from organised sex rackets.

Similar tactics

Modugumudi Kishan and his companion Chandrakala Purnima, named as prime suspects in the Chicago sex racket, did what brokers in Hyderabad have been doing for the past three years. “It is not yet clear how he persuaded some women from Tollywood to be part of his flesh trade in Chicago. Otherwise, the tactics adopted by him and pimps here securing women from other countries are nearly the same,” say Hyderabad police officials.

The challenge for police here is not busting organised prostitution, but to get the accused convicted. In the Chicago case, investigators gathered precise and irrefutable evidence in the form of mobile phone numbers, text messages, emails, booking of hotel rooms and even geographical location of the victims and the brokers.

By correlating these, they established that it was the Telugu couple who brought Tollywood artistes to the U.S. for prostitution. Little room was left for defence for the Telugu couple in the case, police officers here, after examining the reports filed by the Homeland Security Investigations team in the concerned court there, surmise. So precise were the investigators in connecting the ‘couple’s crime of importing women from India for prostitution in US’ with the victims that there was no ambiguity.

Cracking the case

A Telugu actress detained at Chicago’s O’Hare International airport on November 20, 2017, said she landed there after a person named Raju sent her travel documents. Based on Raju’s phone and his e-mail ID, investigators did an open source Internet search and found an article in an online magazine, which alleged that one Sreeraj Chennupatti was drawing actresses into prostitution. This led the investigators on a deeper probe.

Verifications with mobile phone service providers revealed that the said number was being used by Kishan along with another number. Further, the e-mail ID and its recovery ID were found. In two U.S. visa rejected applications, the second was the applicant’s e-mail ID.

Based on Internet Protocol addresses, they found the two IDs were frequently accessed from a high speed Internet account located in Kishan’s home in Illinois. One of the prostitution racket victims email was also accessed from Kishan’s home Internet service.

Even the victim’s flight ticket to the U.S. has Kishan’s mobile number as the contact number.

Further investigation confirmed that his credit card was used to book flight tickets for the victims and pay mobile bills.

Another interesting find was that Kishan’s e-mail ID was used to book 76 airline tickets from November 2016 to November 2017, the same period the alleged sex racket was operated, the investigators said. Billing address for all air tickets was his home address.

Using the same e-mail ID, 42 room reservations were made in different hotels across the U.S. under different names between November 2016 and January 2018. But all names appeared to be of Indian descent, the investigators said in their report.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 11:40:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/tollywoods-flesh-trade-links-more-than-meets-the-eye/article24256176.ece

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