C Unnikrishnan, TNN | Aug 31, 2011
MUMBAI: Its security
befitted a spy agency, its charges were more than a starred hotel's, and
the operations were straight out of a James Bond thriller. The
Sun-n-Sheel, an inconspicuous hotel in Andheri
was busted last month for running a prostitution racket and dance bars.
It was not, however, the catch that left the raiding party astonished
but the management's sophisticated functioning.
The establishment charged
Rs 6 lakh per patron per visit and allowed them in only with a
reference. It also had all the safeguards normally expected from a
secret agency's operation: intimidatingly thick-set guards, seemingly
defunct elevators that came alive on signal, electronic doors, hidden
escape shafts with mattresses below to break the fall, even a separate
room stocked with a change of clothes for the dancers for emergencies.
Located on Andheri-Kurla Road in JB Nagar
the hotel, indeed, has a facade as innocuous as any in the city. On the
front is a dhaba, on the side other stores, and on the third-floor
terrace a restaurant. Day long, these businesses conducted their trade;
and late at night, after others had pulled their shutters, the hotel
would come to life and stay abuzz till 6am. Most of its customers were
businessmen, who needed a reference to gain entry.
Sun-n-Sheel had a perfectly thought-out operation that would have never
given an outsider any clue about the happenings inside. "There was also a
strong contingency plan for the girls and customers to escape," said an
MIDC police officer.
Forty-five men, including the hotel's
owner, Lalji Singh alias Vinod Singh, and 6 women were arrested under
the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act in the raid on July 24. Singh,
it was later found out, is also wanted by the Interpol
for a cheating case in Dubai.
Hotel sources say Sun-n-Sheel's shadowy and intricate operations began
right at the building's entrance. There, an electronic switch was
installed, which, when pressed, caused the lights in the dance bars to
flicker to warn of approaching policemen.
On the ground floor
too were posted 12 brawny guards manning an iron gate. Their brief was
simply to keep out unwanted visitors and collect the Rs 1-lakh entrance
fee in cash from trusted patrons.
Once past the first test,
the patrons had to take the stairs to the first floor, where two
elevators existed: one went straight to the third floor restaurant and
the other seemingly remained dead. "The second lift provided access to
the second floor. It started only if instructions were provided over
phone to the staff on the fourth floor to fix the fuse," said a police
officer. On the second floor were two dance bars and rooms for
Any patron entering the establishment had to
shell out another Rs 5 lakh to the staff. In return, he was given a
smaller amount on "a steel plate" in various denominations for the sole
purpose of showering the cash on the girls. "The plate would be
replenished until the entire Rs 5 lakh was exhausted. This, though, was
the lower limit. When two customers fell for the same girl, there was no
ceiling," said a source in the hotel.
Put together, the Rs 6
lakh covered the dance, food, alcohol and girls, most of whom who were
in the age group of 18-20, some Bollywood aspirants. "For sex, the
customers could shift to the rooms that are separated from the dance
bars by an electronically operated door fitted to the common wall," said
a police officer.
Apart from the switch at the entrance, the
establishment had made many arrangements for contingencies like police
raids. "Near the bars, there was a room that stocked a change of
clothes-like jeans and T-shirts-for the girls," said the officer. On
getting out of their dancing clothes, the girls would climb up to the
third floor restaurant and blend in with the crowds.
there was a 4ft by 6ft opening to a shaft that patrons and the girls
leaped into to escape. At the bottom of the shaft were left piles of
mattresses to break the fall. Once on the ground floor, people could
flee to a public road behind the hotel through a gate.
the hotel was raided last month, some girls fled to the third floor
restaurant and therefore avoided arrest. Those who tried escaping
through the rear, though, were caught. True to the operations, the staff
at the dance bars even removed the chairs and dropped mud over the
floor to make it appear unused. "But we found the bulbs too hot, which
exposed them," an officer said.
Singh, who also owns hotels in Dubai
reportedly boasted to the police about his clout on arrest. "He told us
that he supplied models for a late Mumbai-based corporate giant in
Dubai," the officer said. The police say they will hand over Singh to
the Interpol once the formalities are over. Singh, who is currently out
on bail, did not reply to TOI's several attempts to contact him.