Gujarat Cops Launch Investigation Into US-Canada Human Smuggling Racket After 4 Gujaratis Freeze To Death - Vibes Of India

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Gujarat Cops Launch Investigation Into US-Canada Human Smuggling Racket After 4 Gujaratis Freeze To Death

| Updated: January 26, 2022 14:11

Forty-eight hours after Thursday’s recovery of frozen bodies of four Gujaratis, including an infant, killed in a strong blizzard when temperatures hovered around -40 degrees C on the US-Canada border, the Ahmedabad Crime Branch has begun investigations into what has emerged as a huge human smuggling racket.

Law enforcement agencies on the US-Canada border had found the four bodies when investigating a sordid human smuggling racket with the arrest of seven persons who were also from Gujarat and had infiltrated in the US.

The North Gujarat’s Patel family of four, including a 12-year-old girl, had trekked 11 hours through the hostile weather when they were killed in the freezing blizzard.  

Gujarat officials told Vibes of India that the Ahmedabad Crime Branch is investigating the role of one person from Paliyad village in Gandhinagar in the human smuggling racket.

Sources said the bodies were found just about 10 metres from the US border. The Crime Branch has found a family from Kalol in Gandhinagar district who wanted to get into the US through an agent. Police have recovered a laptop from the person under investigation. They are also trying to find out if this is the same agent who had organized the family’s infiltration in the US.

Meanwhile, a criminal complaint was lodged in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against 47-year-old US citizen Steve Shand, who has been charged with human smuggling.

The complaint lodged on Thursday stated that Shand was suspected smuggler of undocumented foreign nationals and arrested near the US-Canada border on January 19 for smuggling in two Indian nationals into the US.

The two have been identified as ‘SP’ and ‘YP’. The complaint added that five Indian nationals “illegally present in the United States were also identified and arrested” around the time of Shand’s arrest.

The complaint said, “All foreign nationals spoke Gujarati and most had limited or no English language speaking ability.”

While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement agencies bumped into five more Indian nationals south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. They appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota.

The four-member Gujarati family froze to death along the US-Canada border in what the authorities described as a failed crossing attempt. Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, Commanding Officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said at a press conference that RCMP officers discovered “the bodies of three individuals – an adult male, adult female and an infant – on the Canadian side of the border. Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of another male – believed at this time to be a teen.”

And it was on January 19 itself that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported discovery of four frozen bodies.

The criminal complaint against Shand said that “the investigation into the death of the four individuals is ongoing along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected of being a part.” The complaint also added that one of the Indian nationals apprehended provided limited information to Border Patrol.

“He reported that he paid a significant amount of money to enter Canada from India under fraudulently obtained student visa. He did not intend to study in Canada but rather to illegally enter the United States. He had crossed the border into the United States on foot and had expected to be picked up by an individual who would drive him to his uncle’s residence in Chicago,” it said.

MacLatchy appealed that anyone thinking of crossing the border in Manitoba should not do it. “Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely. They can’t. Even with the proper clothing, it is not a journey that is possible. This morning, taking the severe wind chill into account, it was -41 degrees Celsius in the Emerson area. At this temperature, your skin will freeze in minutes. I understand there may be a great need to get to another country, but this is not the way. You will be risking your life and the lives of the people you care about,” the officer said.

“I am saddened there was loss of life and the fact a small child died makes it even more difficult. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones,” said Grand Forks Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony S Good. “Anyone thinking of crossing the border illegally in these treacherous conditions should not do it. Smugglers only care about the money and have zero regard for lives lost,” Good said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday tweeted, “Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation.”

Jaishankar spoke to India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and India’s High Commissioner in Canada Ajay Bisaria. Ambassador Sandhu later tweeted, “We are in touch with US authorities on their ongoing investigation. A consular team from @IndiainChicago is travelling today to Minnesota to coordinate and provide any assistance required.”

India’s High Commissioner in Canada Bisaria tweeted, “An Indian consular team is travelling today from @IndiainToronto to Manitoba to coordinate and help.”

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1 Comment

  1. ashok

    Deeply saddening. There should be more job creation within the country, in order that people are not driven to such desperation.

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