The Gujarat Police have booked 14 agents for alleged human trafficking and attempting to illegally immigrate people from the state to the United States via the Mexico border. The agents had instructed Punjabis, who were on a Nicaragua-bound plane grounded in France weeks ago, to identify themselves as “Khalistani” and “seek asylum” if caught by US police at the Mexico border.
The Nicaragua-bound aircraft, operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines, landed at Vatry near Paris on December 21 for a technical stopover en route from Dubai when the French police intervened. The flight, which had nearly 200 people from Punjab and 66 from Gujarat, landed in Mumbai in the early hours of December 26 after being sent back.
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, said SP Rajkumar, Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime and Railways).
The Gujarat CID (Crime and Railway), probing the 66 passengers from the state on the ‘Dunki flight’, discovered that these trips are primarily for Punjabis. ‘Dunki or Donkey Flight’ is a term used for illegal movements.
Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime and Railways), SP Rajkumar, stated, “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 set-up.”
The agents had instructed the passengers from Punjab to identify themselves as Khalistani and seek asylum in the US if caught at the border. In the US, the government allows asylum seekers to work on humanitarian grounds.
The majority of the agents booked by the police belong to Gujarat, with some from Delhi, Mumbai, and Dubai. 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. Other accused are Chandresh Patel, Kiran Patel, Bhargav Darji, Sandip Patel, Piyush Barot, Arpitsinh Zala, Biren Patel, Jayesh Patel, and Sam Paaji.
The agents were booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 370 for human trafficking, section 201 for destroying evidence, and section 120-B for criminal conspiracy.
The probe revealed that these agents had promised to help the passengers from Gujarat enter the US illegally after reaching Nicaragua for Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh. It also came to light that these agents, who work closely with main agents living in the US, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dubai, and Delhi, had sent several people to Nicaragua on three different trips in December alone.
“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 the mobile phones, we have also added section 201,” Rajkumar told reporters in Gandhinagar.
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. The agents had also booked air tickets for these passengers. 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.