A sex racket is a festival come early for the media and public, but as two of the accused happen to be part of an event whose aim was to counter social morality on love, it's become an endless party of scandal. Rahul Pasupalan and Reshmi Nair, a couple, who were at the forefront of 'Kiss of Love' event which eventually became a country-wide movement, were arrested by the Kerala police for alleged involvement in a sex racket. Ever since, there has been a glut of rumour in the public to the point that it has become tough to separate fact from fiction.
The News Minute interviewed Kerala’s IG of Police (Crime Branch) S Sreejith, who spoke about what the police know so far, and what remains to be investigated.
How did your team start the investigation?
In April 2015, the cyber cell in Thiruvananthapuram got a complaint about a pedophile page called ‘Kochu Sundarikal’, but the case was closed as the page was blocked and the admin was in Saudi Arabia.
Even before I joined the crime branch, the DGP was toying with the idea of investigating online crimes. This is when we also got a second complaint from someone from the facebook group 'Sexually Frustrated Mallus' about another "Kochu Sundarikal' page that had popped up.
We registered an FIR, but the page was taken off after a media report. It was floated again and we started quietly pursuing it and arrested 11 people.
During this time we realised that some people who were putting numbers on Kochu Sundarikal were also doubling up on a website called Locanto.
Three civilians who were helping the police, created anonymous accounts and started chatting with people on Locanto who had put up Kerala based ads.
That is how we got in touch with Akbar, a native of Kasaragod. Later we realised that Akbar had published about nine advertisements which had different numbers. When we called up a number, he would pick and say, “Chetta (brother), it’s me only. You cannot get a better offer than what I’m giving.”
Did Akbar offer minors through his ads?
No, nothing explicit would be said in ads. He later gave us his no and the WhatsApp chats began. It is during that conversation that he mentioned the minors and Reshmi Nair.
How did the conversations with Akbar go?
We told Akbar that our bosses, two men from Uttar Pradesh were coming for a land deal in Vizhinjam. We said we want a total of five girls in which one should be a minor and another model.
He started sending pictures of Resmi Nair then.
Did you realise then that this was the Reshmi of KOL?
No, we didn’t. But he himself boasted later about her.
Are the rumors and reports about amounts fixed for Reshmi and the minor true?
Yes, he asked Rs 80,000 for Reshmi, but we haggled and brought it down to 50-60,000. For the minor ‘virgin’, he insisted on Rs 1,50,000. When we said we don’t want to be duped about the age, he said the minor would bring her Aadhaar card for confirmation.
How far was Reshmi involved?
When he started sending pictures of Reshmi, we asked why we should believe that she was part of his team. To convince us that he had a deal with Reshmi, Akbar sent us his Whatsapp conversations and audio conversations with Reshmi. After we took Akbar into custody, we have retrieved more conversations between Akbar and Reshmi that clearly show her complicity.
While you were striking the deal, was Rahul Pasupalan involved?
Akbar mentioned about Rahul couple of times. He told us that Rahul was ‘co-operating’ with Reshmi. He also said that via Rahul and Reshmi, he could arrange more girls.
I don’t believe Rahul had a role directly in arranging minors in this particular case. But we are sure that Rahul would have been aware that they were minors. We also know of other cases where Rahul and Reshmi arranged for girls, including minors.
There is a previous Whatsapp conversation in which Reshmi asks him for girls for another operation, and when Akbar quotes an amount, Reshmi gives thumbs up. According to Akbar, these girls were minors.
We are not saying that Rahul and Reshmi used to trap minors and were trafficking them. But we are very sure that they were trafficking people and never bothered to do anything if they were minors.
There is an audio doing the rounds in which ‘Rahul’ tells someone that ‘Kochu Sundarikal’ was his page.
It is a lie and ‘Kochu Sundarikal’ page had nothing to do with him. That is not an audio from the police.
What had happened on the night of the operation against all the accused?
Bengaluru broker Lineesh Mathew and two girls who flew down from Bengaluru were taken into custody from the Kochi airport. Once, we were sure that they could not reach out to Akbar, he was also picked up from the hotel at around 6 pm.
Meanwhile, three others who had come in a car escaped. There was a child in the backseat of the car, we are unsure if that was the other minor.
When those people escaped, we gave up hope that Reshmi will turn up. Suddenly, at 11 pm a message came on Akbar’s phone from her asking if there was a confusion and ‘Innu joli ille?’ (Is there no work today?).
On our instructions, Akbar asked her to come to the hotel. In sometime, Reshmi, Rahul and their child turned up at the hotel.
Did the arrests happen on the first instance?
No, this was the third instance. After almost two months of conversation with Akbar, we fixed appointments twice. But first time Reshmi was apparently busy campaigning for her mother who was contesting in the local body elections. Then during Deepavali also, the appointment fizzled out as both sides were busy.
There are many who say Rahul Pasupalan and his wife are adults and so it was their choice to opt for sex work. What would you say to that?
I would call Rahul an abettor and guilty on many counts.
If his wife was indulging in adultery and he had turned a blind eye, there is no offense. But, Rahul was clearly a solicitor in the case; he trafficked his wife for money and was living off the proceeds of prostitution. This is not a simple case involving adults.
He was also actively using Facebook to upload pictures of his wife and create an image for her. This was all for the promotion of the business. So he has been charged under the IT Act.
Rahul has confessed that he has been in the business for seven months, though Akbar insists he has been dealing with the couple for a year. Rahul Pasupalan was not unaware that minors were being trafficked. He cannot get away claiming I was only soliciting my ‘adult’ wife. His wife’s pictures were the only ones being used to entice customers.
Why did they do this? Many reports say a film production dragged them in to financial trouble?
When I asked that they did not say that. Reshmi once said they were in need of money due to a medical emergency. But they were not able to explain what kind of medical emergency it was, so the reason cannot be believed. There were also proof that they have been in to this work for last 7 months.
Did the couple use Kiss of Love as a platform for their activities?
I cannot and will never speak about things I don’t know.
After all the investigations, what is your insight into how such systems operate?
The sex racket team works like a monarchy, there is one king and many armies at different places and when there is a need all of them are brought together. The same way, whenever there is a big deal all these people come together with all their resources. In this case, Akbar was supposed to organize five girls and so he reached out to Reshmi and Lineesh Mathew.
We have a strong case and a lot of digital evidence. We will track more such human traffickers down.
(Inputs- Haritha John and Pheba Mathew)