The Hyderabad police continued its crackdown on Arab sheikhs visiting the city in search of minor brides, by announcing the arrest of chief accused qazi Ali Abdullah Rifai on Tuesday, along with three more Omani nationals.
Announcing the qazi's arrest, the police said in a press release, "Instead of restricting himself to his legitimate duties, he indulged in providing girls to foreign nationals by maintaining a network of middlemen and women to search for the girls and keep them 'ready' as per the requirement,"
"In this case, the accused Al Sheyadi Sulaman Khamis Salim (60), along with his son and an Omani agent approached the qazi on September 13 and requested him to provide a girl between the age of 15 and 17," the police added.
As per the regular practice, the accused qazi informed his sources and brought some girls but they were rejected. They were searching for another minor when they learned about the police investigation and the qazi absconded.
He was tracked down later and arrested by a special team of the Hyderabad police from an undisclosed location
The police also arrested one Nayab Qazi Ibrahim Shareef for facilitating the marriages and helping the chief qazi in his operations.
The police said that he would lure young girls by 'misguiding' them about a bright future in the Gulf countries.
"He also helped with notary work and other paperwork for the Arab nationals for the marriages," the police said.
The police also announced the arrest of an Omani broker, identified as Al Shayadi Mohammed Khaifan Mohammed who would allegedly visit India along with the Omani nationals and was an acquaintance of the tainted qazi.
The broker and the qazi were said to be constantly in contact with each other via WhatsApp, and the police are also analysing their call records, to determine their other victims.
Besides that, an Omani national, Al Awdi Yasir Abdullah Hamdan was also arrested for his close ties to the qazi, and for marrying a girl from Talabkatta in Hyderabad.
Omani nationals deported
Two Omani nationals were also deported by the Hyderabad police.
The first one, identified as Abdullaj Mubarak Abdullah, was the imam of a mosque in Oman and came to Hyderabad on a medical visa.
Besides being blind, the police said he was a chronic kidney patient who was undergoing dialysis thrice a week.
The police investigation revealed that Abdullah had already married 10 women in Hyderabad and Oman and had come to the city, to find his 11th bride.
"Most of the victims were found to have shifted their residences and the ones available, requested anonymity and do not want to file a complaint. As there is a lack of evidence, we are deporting him immediately," the police said.
Addressing media persons at his office in Purani Haveli, DCP South Zone V Satyanarayana said, "Even in that state, he came to the city looking for a bride. Considering his chronic disease, his old age, and lack of evidence, we informed the Omani consulate of the case and are deporting him immediately."
Police crackdown on racket
Last week, the Hyderabad police rescued 12 underaged girls and busted a major racket with the arrest of 20 accused, including eight Arabsâ€”five Omanis and three Qataris.
Marriages of minor girls from poor Muslim families to elderly Arabs is not new in Hyderabad. The well-organised racket involves middlemen in Hyderabad and those based in Gulf countries, who lure poor families with the promise to pull them out of poverty.
The racket continued to thrive with the connivance of the â€˜qazisâ€™ who perform such marriages in violation of all rules.
As part of the crackdown, the police said that they have identified more than 35 brokers in Hyderabad alone, of which 25 were women.
Four lodge owners and five brokers and three Qazis were also arrested, including Chief Qazi of Mumbai, Farid Ahmed Khan, who was considered the kingpin.
"The Omani government is also cooperating with us. 99% of the people, who come to the city, come on either a tourist, business, student or medical visas. They will all receive a â€˜red carpetâ€™ welcome, as we are a global city," Satyanarayana told reporters.
"However, those who do such illegal activities under the garb of some other reason will not be spared. People should be scared before they think before they ruin the life of an underage girl from Hyderabad," he added.
He also said that tablets to improve sexual potency were found with the sheikhs and agents, and more information would be provided after the investigation.
Meanwhile, five brokers and two qazis including the chief qazi of Mumbai were remanded to police custody. Two more brokers and one Omani sheikh were also remanded to police custody in another case.
"The police is also keeping a close watch on the intermediaries, who are in constant touch with persons, involved in illegal activities," the police said.