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If caught, Nicaragua-bound Punjabis were told to use Khalistani shield for asylum in US

Weeks after a Nicaragua-bound plane carrying Indians was grounded in France and later sent back to India, it has emerged during an investigation by the Gujarat Police that the flyers from Punjab were told to identify themselves as pro-Khalistan activists and seek asylum in the US if the police there caught them at the border.

  • Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts had maximum passengers on the Nicaragua-bound plane stopped in France
  • Sources said the SIT probing the matter was likely to lodge an FIR soon and had identified an Amritsar travel agent as being ‘part of the larger racket’

“There were nearly 200 persons from Punjab on that flight while 66 were from Gujarat. We learnt that these trips are mainly for Punjabis. 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,” said SP Rajkumar, Gujarat Police’s ADGP, CID (Crime and Railways).

The Gujarat Police have booked 14 agents on the charge of human trafficking for allegedly trying to send 66 Gujaratis to the US illegally via Mexico border. “The agents instructed the passengers from Punjab to identify themselves as Khalistanis and seek asylum in the US if they were caught at the border. The story will be different for other passengers. In the US, the government allows asylum seekers to work on humanitarian ground,” he said. No arrest has been made so far and a lookout circular will soon be issued against all 14 agents.

While majority of these agents belong to Gujarat, some of them are from Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai, the police said. The probe revealed that these agents had promised to help the passengers from Gujarat to enter the US illegally after reaching the Latin American country (Nicaragua) for Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh, said Rajkumar.

It also came to light that before this flight, these agents who work closely with main agents living in the US, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dubai and Delhi, had sent several people to Nicaragua in three different trips in December alone, he said.

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. It also came to light that the agents had booked air tickets for these passengers, said Rajkumar.

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, the release said.

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. 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, Rajkumar said.

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