Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gujarat: 14 booked for human trafficking in Nicaragua flight case

The Gujarat Police filed a First Investigation Report against 14 suspected immigration agents linked to a charter flight trying to take 303 Indians from the United Arab Emirates to Nicaragua, The Hindu reported on Friday.

The 14 agents mentioned in the Gujarat Police’s FIR operate in Gujarat, Mumbai, and New Delhi. They are charged with sections related to human trafficking.

France grounded the plane on December 22 based on a tip that it might carry individuals at risk of human trafficking. After two days, the flight, carrying 276 passengers, departed for Mumbai. Some passengers applied for asylum in France, and upon return, 66 individuals from Gujarat were questioned by the police.

The agents are accused of enticing individuals from Gujarat and Punjab, assuring them of unauthorized entry into the United States for a fee ranging from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh. The alleged scheme involved flying the passengers to Nicaragua and later Mexico, facilitating border crossing. The agents were purported to assist them in securing jobs within businesses operated by Indians in Mexico.

The questioning of passengers uncovered that the agents had secured visitor visas, lasting from 30 to 90 days, for them to go to Dubai. Subsequently, they were intended to be transported to Nicaragua via a chartered plane, as per a statement from the CID (Crime) Branch.

Additional DG, CID (Crime), S. Pandia Rajkumar stated, “It’s a global network with agents in Gujarat, various parts of India, and overseas, orchestrating extensive organized smuggling of people from India to the USA. We’re collaborating with agencies nationwide to gather details; it’s not an isolated case.”

“Individuals in Dubai and even the USA are allegedly aiding in this illicit migration from India,” he told The Hindu.

The investigation uncovered that the agents had demanded passengers pay between ₹60 and ₹80 lakh, with an upfront portion paid and the remainder settled in instalments upon reaching the destination.

The agents allegedly coached individuals on claiming asylum if caught crossing the border, instructing those from Punjab to cite Khalistani affiliations and those from Gujarat to use alternative excuses.

The FIR-listed agents include Jogendra, aka Jaggi Paaji, and Joginder Manasram from Delhi; Raja Bhai and Raju Panchal from Mumbai; and Salim from Dubai. Other accused individuals are Chandresh Patel, Kiran Patel, Bhargav Darji, Sandip Patel, Piyush Barot, Arpitsinh Zala, Biren Patel, Jayesh Patel, and Sam Paaji. They face charges of human trafficking under IPC Section 370, evidence destruction (Section 201), and criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B).

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