Weeks after a Nicaragua-bound plane carrying Indians was grounded in France and later sent back to India, the Gujarat police has booked 14 agents on the charge of human trafficking for trying to send more than 60 persons from Gujarat to the US illegally via the Mexico border, a senior official said.
While a majority of these agents belong to Gujarat, some of them are from Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai, a release by the Gujarat CID – Crime and Railways, said.
The agents named in the first information report (FIR) include Jogendra aka Jaggi Paaji and Joginder Manasram from Delhi, Raja Bhai and Raju Panchal from Mumbai and Salim from Dubai.
The other accused are Chandresh Patel, Kiran Patel, Bhargav Darji, Sandip Patel, Piyush Barot, Arpitsinh Zala, Biren Patel, Jayesh Patel and Sam Paaji, it said.
They were booked on the charge of human trafficking under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 370, for destroying evidence (section 201) and criminal conspiracy (section 120-B).
The probe revealed that these agents had promised to help the passengers from Gujarat to enter the US illegally after reaching the Latin American country (Nicaragua) for Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh, Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime and Railways), SP Rajkumar said.
It also came to light that before this flight, which was grounded in France, these agents who work closely with main agents living in the US, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dubai and Delhi, had sent several people to Nicaragua in three different batches in December alone, he said.
“Based on the statements of passengers from Gujarat, we have identified and booked 14 agents for human trafficking. Since they had forced the passengers to delete audio files and other trip-related contents from their mobile phones, we have also added section 201. Each passenger had agreed to pay Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh to these agents only after reaching the US,” Mr Rajkumar told reporters in Gandhinagar.
The Nicaragua-bound aircraft carrying 260 Indians was grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking last month. It landed in Mumbai in the early hours of December 26 after it was sent back. These Indians included 66 from Gujarat, who were then questioned by the CID for the purpose of investigation into the suspected human trafficking conspiracy.
The agents had told the passengers that their men would take them to the US border in Mexico from Nicaragua and then help them cross the border. It also came to light that the agents had booked air tickets for these passengers, said Mr Rajkumar.
As per the plan devised by the agents, these 66 passengers reached Dubai on valid tourist visas from Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi between December 10 and 20. As directed by the agents, these passengers boarded the Nicaragua-bound aircraft of a private airline at the Fujairah International Airport on December 21, the release said.
The chartered flight, which was operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines and bound for Nicaragua, landed at Vatry near Paris on December 21 for a technical stopover en route from Dubai when the French police intervened.
Investigations so far revealed that all the flight bookings were done by Delhi-based agents and they also keep their lawyers ready if anything goes wrong, Mr Rajkumar said.
“There were nearly 200 people from Punjab on that flight, while 66 were from Gujarat. We learnt that these trips are mainly for Punjabis. If some seats remain vacant on the flight after accommodating them, the Delhi agents ask Gujarat-based agents to arrange people who are ready to pay to enter the US illegally through their setup,” the official said.
“The agents instructed the passengers from Punjab to identify themselves as Khalistani and seek asylum in the US if the US police catch them at the border. The story will be different for other passengers. In the US, the government allows asylum seekers to work on humanitarian grounds,” he said, adding that no arrest has been made so far and a look-out circular will soon be issued against all 14 agents.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)