LONDON: A man convicted of child sexual offences in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s has been extradited from Pakistan, following a successful operation led by authorities here and in Islamabad.
The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) department in a press release said 42-year-old Choudhry Ikhalaq Hussain was flown to the UK on Tuesday after he was extradited by authorities.
He was arrested in Sangla, Faisalabad, in January 2019, nearly four years after he fled the UK halfway during his trial. He has been returned to the UK to serve a 19-year term for being found guilty in April 2016 of three counts of sexual activity with a child, two counts of rape and one count of conspiracy to rape.
He is one of 10 men sentenced in 2016 for committing sexual offences against a teenage girl in Rochdale. He was part of a group of men of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan origin who were sentenced for sexually abusing dozens of girls following an investigation centred on the town of Rochdale near Manchester. The court heard that the men groomed the girls with gifts and plied them with alcohol and drugs before forcing them to have sex with others.
The trial in the UK was launched under the umbrella of ‘Operation Doublet’ — a large-scale police investigation formed in 2012 to investigate reports of historic child sexual exploitation between 2003 and 2013, predominantly in the Rochdale area of Greater Manchester.
Hussain escaped during the trial after he was given permission to leave by the judge in 2015, when he claimed that he wanted to attend a relative’s funeral in the UK. Instead he fled to Pakistan and remained at large till last year, when he was apprehended during a joint operation of local and UK authorities.
After his extradition, Detective Superintendent Jamie Daniels, a senior investigating officer for ‘Operation Doublet’, said: “Hussain is a sexual predator who mistakenly thought he could flee to another country to live the good life, while his victim was forced to deal with the consequences of his vile actions and robbed of justice. His apprehension demonstrates that when it comes to pursuing perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, we will hunt them across the globe if necessary.”
Daniels added that Hussain’s extradition is an “overwhelmingly positive results” for the GMP as well as the National Crime Agency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British High Commission in Pakistan and Pakistani authorities who he said have worked in partnership with the UK for a number of years in order to catch Hussain and bring him back to the UK.
“No matter how many years have passed, we will do everything in our power to ensure dangerous predators like Hussain are caught and face up to their abhorrent crimes. I also hope it sends a clear message to those who think that they can flee to the other side of the world to avoid serving a prison sentence — we won’t stop until you are put behind bars,” Daniels said.
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner said the extradition was the latest example of the close co-operation between the UK and Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies.
“...There is no escape for those who flee from the law, even across international boundaries. Choudhry Ikhalaq Hussain will finally face jail for his terrible crimes. This is down to the hard work and excellent collaboration between Pakistan and UK authorities,” he said, lauding the FIA and Punjab police for their work.
Earlier, Pakistani authorities launched a search for Britain’s most wanted man in child abuse cases with the help of only one photograph that had been provided to the local police.
Soon after receiving a request from the UK for his extradition, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) sought non-bailable warrants for Hussain on December 12, 2017 from the court of additional district magistrate, Islamabad, Shoaib Ali. FIA Director Shakeel Ahmed Durrani then requested the police to facilitate the execution of arrest warrant.
A police officer told Dawn that only one photograph of the convict had been provided to the local police that with the help of Special Branch of police launched the search and finally managed to find his whereabouts.
The senior officer said the convict had been hiding in a huge three-storey house in a village of Saddar, Sangla Hill. After his arrest in January last year, he was handed over to the FIA, the police officer added.
On Tuesday, Hussain was shifted to Rawalpindi amid tight security and later driven to the Islamabad International Airport by an FIA team before being handed over to Britain’s security team for extradition. He was extradited to the UK on a British Airways flight.
Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2020