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Passport stamp faked to avoid SARS taint

A 26-year-old Punjabi youth, Gurpreet Singh, was arrested on Wednesday as soon as he got off a flight from Bangkok for faking the departure stamp on his passport, city police officers said.

Deputy commissioner of police (security control) P.K. Chatterjee said the departure stamp on Singh’s passport indicated that he had travelled from Kathmandu to Bangkok on Tuesday and then to Calcutta. “Our officers verified the departure stamps and found that the one supposedly marked at Kathmandu airport was fake,’’ Chatterjee said.

Police suspect Gurpreet had forged the departure stamp of Kathmandu airport, fearing that he would be suspected to be a SARS patient and not be allowed to enter the country.

Home ministry officials said Immigration officers at the international airports in the country have been put on high alert after the arrest “This is a new trend and we need more details about the racket,’’ said a senior Union home ministry official who interrogated Gurpreet.

Police said a person with a fake departure stamp could “sneak through the Immigration counters without having to go through the customary and mandatory checks’’. Deputy commissioner Chatterjee admitted: “There is a high probability.’’

Investigations revealed that Gurpreet is from Jalandhar. He claimed to have travelled to the US in 2000. “But we scrutinised the passport and did not find any evidence to suggest that he had been to the States at all,’’ Chatterjee said.

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