In the wake of the recent Nicaragua-bound plane scandal, where a plane carrying Indians was grounded in France over human trafficking charges, Gujarat Police Crime Investigation Department (CID) has taken decisive action. An FIR has been filed against 14 travel agents accused of orchestrating the illegal entry of individuals into the United States.
The investigation has revealed that the operation primarily centers around travel agents from Punjab. ADGP Raj Kumar Pandian provided insights into the modus operandi, explaining that the operation is Delhi-centric, and most of the travel agents involved are from Punjab. The scandal involves a pattern where, after booking flights to Nicaragua, agents from Gujarat are contacted to fill up vacant slots.
The ADGP stated that three flights had already operated similarly before the Nicaragua-bound plane was grounded in France. The agents, with a focus on Punjabis, would target passengers seeking illegal entry into the US. If some seats remained vacant after accommodating passengers from Punjab, the Delhi agents would contact Gujarat-based agents to arrange individuals willing to pay for illegal entry into the US.
What makes this scandal even more alarming is the revelation that the agents instructed passengers from Punjab to identify themselves as Khalistanis if apprehended at the US border. They were advised to seek asylum in the US, citing the government’s allowance for asylum seekers to work on humanitarian grounds.
The FIR, filed on January 10, includes charges under Sections 370, 201, and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These charges encompass human trafficking, destruction of evidence, and criminal conspiracy. The investigation is actively ongoing, with authorities working towards apprehending the accused agents.
The CID has collected details of WhatsApp calls and chats between passengers and the travel agents involved in this scandal. Approximately 200 people from Punjab and 66 from Gujarat were on the Nicaragua-bound flight. The CID is focusing on the Delhi-centric aspect of the operation and aims to issue a look-out circular against all 14 agents soon.
While no arrests have been made as of now, the filing of the FIR marks a crucial step in bringing those responsible to justice. The scandal has shed light on the elaborate networks of human trafficking that operate under the guise of international flights, exploiting vulnerable individuals seeking a pathway to a better life abroad. Authorities are expected to delve deeper into the operations of these travel agents and their connections to dismantle such networks and prevent further exploitation.