A former Maldivian state minister and several politicians from Sri Lanka’s ruling party were among dozens of people arrested after a child sex racket was busted, Sri Lankan police said on Monday.
Mohamed Ashmalee, who once served as the Maldives’ minister of state for finance, was brought to court in the capital Colombo and ordered to be remanded in custody until July 16.
Others arrested included a ruling party politician in Sri Lanka’s north-central region, a Buddhist monk, a prominent gem dealer and a merchant navy captain.
Sri Lanka Police said two websites were used to sell underage girls for sex, adding that they found the phone records of at least one 15-year-old who was allegedly repeatedly raped.
Intercourse with anyone under 18 is considered rape under Sri Lankan law and attracts a maximum jail term of 20 years.
“We have 32 people in custody and 22 of them are known to have had sex with the minor,” Sri Lanka Police Deputy Inspector-General Ajith Rohana said, referring to the 15-year-old girl.
Those arrested have yet to be charged by police.
The owners of the two websites were also detained by the authorities.
Ashmalee’s lawyer meanwhile said that he only meant to book an oil massage after seeing an online advertisement, and had not known of any underage associations.
Sri Lanka introduced tough child protection laws in 1995 after reports of widespread sexual exploitation of minors, particularly in tourist resort regions. (Source: BBC)