A prostitution ring that has trafficked Sri Lankan girls to Maldivian resorts via Male’ for the past six years has been busted by Sri Lankan police, and is now being investigated by local authorities.
The operation began detected after a Pannipitiya brothel was raided by the Special Investigations Unit of Sri Lanka’s Mirihana Police, which operates in a Colombo suburb. The police are investigating the operation’s association with Maldives’ resorts.
Maldives Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said local police were awaiting these details before taking action locally.
“We have just heard about the operation today, once we receive more information we will launch our own investigation,” Shiyam said.
Shiyam indicated that it was a “delicate matter”.
“We have found some operations before, and sometimes there are many people who are involved,” he said, adding that the police conduct “on and off operations” targeting prostitution rings.
The accused will face deportation or appropriate legal procedures, Shiyam said. Maldivian police forces expect full cooperation from their Sri Lankan counterparts in addressing the issue.
Speaking to Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times, Inspector H. N. B. Jayasinha said a police decoy established contact with the Pannipitiya brothel’s inner operations, explaining that clients were accepted by appointment.
The brothel was later raided and five girls were arrested along with the matron ‘Pannipitiya aunty.’ The six women arrested were of Galle, Kandy, Anuradhapura and Mahiyangana, and have been remanded until October 31.
Officials noted, however, that the brothel was part of a wider network.
Jayasinha told The Sunday Times that investigations revealed that two or three girls were sent to the Maldives on tourist visas each month, where they worked as prostitutes on islands near Male’.
Speaking to local media Haveeru, Jayasinha said the girls were lured with promises of employment, and instead were held hostage and forced into prostitution.
Haveeru today published pictures of the girls being arrested by local police at a Male’ home, however none of the ringleaders have yet been arrested.
A police investigation conducted earlier this year revealed that human trafficking had overtaken fishing as the Maldives’ second greatest contributor of foreign currency, pulling in an estimated US$123 million annually. A majority was of this industry involves the trafficking of Bangladeshi workers following false or duplicitous promises of employment, however the trafficking of sex workers has also been previously reported.