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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Nicaragua flight: Passengers from Gujarat agreed to pay Rs 60-80 lakh to agents to enter US illegally

The Nicaragua-bound aircraft, an Airbus A340 carrying 303 passengers, including 260 Indians, was grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking

PTI Ahmedabad Published 02.01.24, 05:35 PM
The plane reported to carry some 300 Indian citizens parks at the Vatry airport, eastern France, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023 in Vatry

The plane reported to carry some 300 Indian citizens parks at the Vatry airport, eastern France, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023 in Vatry AP/PTI

More than 60 people from Gujarat on board the Nicaragua-bound plane, which was sent back from France over suspected human trafficking, had agreed to pay Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh to immigration agents, who promised to cross into the US illegally after reaching the Latin American country, officials said.

The Nicaragua-bound aircraft, an Airbus A340 carrying 303 passengers, including 260 Indians, was grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking over a week ago. It landed in Mumbai in the early hours of December 26.

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According to a senior state Crime Investigation Department (CID) - Crime and Railways official, those passengers included 66 from Gujarat, who have already reached their respective native places in the state.

Superintendent of Police, CID- Crime and Railways, Sanjay Kharat, who is investigating the case, said these 66 Gujarat natives, including some minors, were mainly from Mehsana, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Anand districts.

"We have already questioned 55 of them and recorded their statements. Majority of them have studied till Class 8 to 12. Each of them admitted that they had agreed to pay Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh to the local immigration agents to help them cross into the US illegally after reaching Nicaragua via Dubai," he said.

The state CID has so far acquired the names and contact numbers of nearly 15 agents, who had promised to help these 55 persons enter the US illegally through the US-Mexico border.

"These agents had asked these 55 persons to pay the money only after reaching the US. The agents had told the passengers that their men would take them to the US border from Nicaragua and then help them cross the border. It was also revealed that the agents had also booked air tickets for these passengers and gave USD 1,000 to 3,000 to each passenger to deal with any emergency situation," Kharat said.

As per the plan devised by the agents, these 66 passengers reached Dubai 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, a release issued by the CID said on Tuesday.

It added that the CID has written a letter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to help it collect more information about the agents who had acquired Dubai visa of these 55 passengers, bank details of agents who had paid the visa fee from his account, how the agents managed to acquire visa of Nicaragua from Dubai and who booked the flight from Dubai and paid money for the tickets of passengers.

The chartered flight, which was operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines and bound for Nicaragua, landed at Vatry near Paris on December 21 for a technical stopover en route from Dubai when the French police intervened.

French authorities launched a judicial investigation into the conditions and purpose of the trip, with a unit specialising in organised crime investigating suspected human trafficking.

Nicaragua has become a popular destination for those seeking asylum in the US. As many as 96,917 Indians attempted to enter the US illegally in the financial year 2023, signalling a 51.61 per cent jump from the previous year, according to data made available by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

At least 41,770 of those Indians attempted to enter the US via the Mexican land border, CBP data shows.

Flights to Nicaragua or third countries where obtaining travel documents is easy have come to be known as 'dunki' flights.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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