New Delhi, April 19: BJP lawmaker Babubhai Katara has been illegally ferrying people abroad for at least a year, possibly with help from immigration and foreign ministry officials, police sources said today.
The MP from Gujarat’s Dahod was arrested at the Delhi airport yesterday while trying to board an Air-India flight to Toronto with a woman and a boy travelling on the passports of his wife and son.
Today, a magistrate sent him to police custody for 10 days and the woman, Paramjeet, for four days.
“He has told us he travelled abroad twice before — once to Britain and the other time to Canada. He has confessed that on the earlier trip to Canada, too, he had taken along a person on a false passport,” a senior officer said.
He added that several arrival stamps on the passport of Katara’s wife were “frauds”.
“Women claiming to be his wife have travelled abroad on her diplomatic passport and not returned — at least not legally,” the officer said.
“The implication is obvious. This can’t be done repeatedly without assistance from someone in the immigration department.”
The investigators do not yet have evidence against any particular immigration official. Suspicion also runs high that some “possibly junior but influential” foreign ministry official might have been helping Katara out.
The police are scanning the passports of other members of the Katara family to check if any of these had also been misused.
Investigators are also looking for several travel agents in Punjab who they believe were part of the racket. Officers named two of the suspected agents as Sandhu and Joginder Singh.
“The client who wants to go abroad approaches the travel agent. The travel agent is in contact with the MP and assures the person safe passage for a large sum. Then the travel agent and the MP’s secretary haggle over who gets how much,” the officer said.
Rajinder, Katara’s secretary who is in hiding, handed a travel agent Rs 2 lakh out of the Rs 30 lakh that Paramjeet said she paid the MP, the police said.
Paramjeet’s family in Punjab, however, claimed that only Rs 3 lakh had changed hands. The rest — Rs 10 lakh for agent Joginder and Rs 17 lakh for the MP — was to be paid just before Paramjeet was handed over to her husband in Toronto, a relative said.
Police sources, however, said they believe that Paramjeet’s husband, a businessman who keeps shuttling between India and Canada, was now in the country.
“If we can get to him, we might learn more about the racket,” a police officer said.
Paramjeet told the magistrate that the boy, Amarjeet, was not her son.
The police sources suggested the two clients’ deals may have been struck separately.
The police had yesterday claimed Amarjeet was 13 years old but today said he was 16. The boy has been sent to a juvenile remand home.
Outside the magistrate’s court, Katara ducked to avoid being clicked but a policeman lifted his face for the benefit of news photographers and cameramen.