Indian police have arrested eight Arab nationals accused of paying brokers thousands of dollars to arrange sham Islamic "marriages" with underage girls for sex, an officer said Thursday.
The five Omani and three Qatari men were detained in the southern city of Hyderabad where police had previously arrested wealthy sex tourists seeking so-called one month wives.
V Satyanarayana, deputy commissioner of police, said eight underage girls had been removed from hostels across the city. Five brokers, three clerics and four hostel owners involved in the racket were also arrested.
"The Arab men paid between $4,500 to $15,500 to brokers who arranged the girls for short term marriages. They took help from qazis (clerics) to perform the rituals," Satyanarayana told AFP.
The accused men, all in their late 60s, entered religious unions with the victims after arriving in Hyderabad last month, the officer added.
He said it was unclear whether the accused intended to take their victims - all under 18 years of age - back to the Middle East.
Sex and marriage with minors is treated as a sex crime in India. The accused men have been charged with deception, rape and slavery offences.
Last month India's women and child welfare minister Maneka Gandhi urged the foreign ministry to track down a 16-year-old girl taken to the Middle East by a 65-year-old Omani who brokered a "contract marriage".
The accused "married" the girl in May in Hyderabad after paying $8,000 to brokers and her family, who later helped arrange her travel to Muscat.
The girl's mother filed a police complaint after the victim called her in distress. The girl's father, uncle and aunt were later arrested.
Gangs target poor families in Hyderabad with the promise of cash if they put forward their daughters for "contract marriages" with wealthy older men.
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