The "leader of the largest trafficking gang of Iranian women in Malaysia" has been arrested and transferred to Iran, media in Tehran reported on May 18.
The operation to capture him was coordinated with the INTERPOL, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked Tasnim news agency reported.
The leader nicknamed "Alex" has been "smuggling and selling Iranian girls abroad for sexual exploitation for the past three years," Tasnim said, adding that all other members of the gang have also been arrested.
However, the number of detainees is not yet clear. Nevertheless, as most have been arrested by the Islamic Republic security forces, it would be safe to say they were arrested in Iran.
There has been a heated debate in the clergy-dominated Iran on the issue of sex trafficking and trafficking of women to Arab and European countries over the past decade.
Officials in the Islamic Republic have on several occasions admitted in the past that trafficking takes place, but insisted that they did not consider it as significant.
The U.S. government has also criticized the Islamic Republic government's performance in its annual report on human trafficking and smuggling women for sexual slavery.
On June 20, 2019, the State Department released its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report", which again designated Iran as a Tier 3 country, the lowest ranking possible.
"The Government of Iran does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so", the report asserted.