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Stratford table-dancing club loses licence after underage girls found

PUBLISHED: 15:54 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:14 17 October 2019

Jhankaar club in Stratford. Picture: Google

Jhankaar club in Stratford. Picture: Google

Archant

A Bollywood-themed table dancing club has lost its licence after two underage girls were discovered during a raid by police and immigration officers.

A 14-year-old and 16-year-old were found in full make up wearing pyjamas during the intelligence led operation by the Met, Home Office and UK Border Agency at Jhankaars nightclub in the Broadway, Stratford, on July 5.

The two girls were with their aunt who was working at the club, which was licensed as a sexual entertainment venue, police documents submitted to Newham Council's licensing sub-committee show.

A Pakistani woman found at the premises told officers she was being held against her will in a flat above the nightspot, was allowed outside only once and had her passport withheld since arriving in the UK, the committee heard.

Pc Gary Watson, from Newham police, said: "One woman told immigration officers she was being held against her will after being in the UK for five days."

Officers seized clothing, hard drives, laptops and documents used either for prostitution, human trafficking or money laundering in the raid, the police documents show.

James Rankin, representing the Met, said Mohammed Sethi - the sole director of the firm which holds the licence, Serene Entertainments Ltd - "put up a fight" when police demanded CCTV, claiming it wasn't working.

Mr Rankin, speaking to the licensing committee on Tuesday, October 15, said the footage was "spirited away" by Mr Sethi's CCTV engineer who was meant to take it to police.

He added that if Mr Sethi had nothing to hide, he would have produced the footage.
Mr Rankin told the committee the Met didn't care and it was still illegal in response to Mr Sethi arguing after the raid that a 17-year old girl, also discovered performing at the club, was almost 18.

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Mr Sethi had also made "pretty distasteful" allegations against the police, accusing officers of fraudulently obtaining a warrant, interfering with witnesses and suggesting one policeman lied to the committee at a previous meeting, Mr Rankin said.

Following the raid, Mr Sethi and a Pakistani woman were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit false labour and human trafficking, the committee heard. The hearing heard Mr Sethi and the woman had been bailed "pending further inquiries".

Mr Rankin said: "This was not a 14 or 16-year old girl playing with a make up box. They were fully made up with glitter on their faces.

"There's an inescapable inference those girls had been dancing."

He added that is was a dreadful state of affairs and should not be allowed to happen in Newham.

Mr Sethi did not attend the hearing but his son Imran said: "Dancers are not allowed to touch the customers. There is nothing of that nature."

Mr Sethi denies the allegations and said in a statement that he was arrested on suspicion of "conspiracy to commit slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour" and not human trafficking.

He added: "The two young people in my flat were asleep on their own wearing no make-up, and were not, nor ever had been, clothed in dancing attire."

Mr Sethi has 21 days to appeal.

A Home Office spokesman refused to comment.

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