Ahmedabad: To unearth a suspected illegal immigration network, the police have begun questioning some Gujarat residents who reached their native places on Wednesday, days after their plane was grounded in France over suspected human trafficking, an official said.
The Nicaragua-bound aircraft, an Airbus A340, carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, was grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking. It landed in Mumbai in the wee hours on Tuesday.
According to a senior official of the state Crime Investigation Department (CID), those passengers included at least 21 from Gujarat.
“We have learnt that 21 passengers were from Gujarat and some of them have reached their respective places in the state. Our teams are in the field right now and we have already begun their questioning,” Superintendent of Police, CID (Crime), Sanjay Kharat said.
The police will try to find out how the passengers were contacted for possible illegal immigration into America, how they were supposed to go to the US once they reached Nicaragua and which agents were involved in it, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kharat had said the CID had formed four teams to investigate the issue.
“The CID (crime) wants to take action against agents who had promised help to the victims to enter the US and other countries (illegally). We have formed four teams which will get information from the victims regarding promises made to them by these agents,” Kharat told reporters on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Mehsana police swung into action after some media reports suggested that most of the passengers were from the district.
Mehsana SP Achal Tyagi said a local police team has also visited a place to verify claims that an agent named Kiran Patel was a part of the immigration network.
“We don’t have any specific information yet about Mehsana residents who were on that flight. Since some reports suggested that people from Mehsana were on their flight, we have sought a list of passengers from the immigration department,” said Tyagi.
He added that Kiran Patel was not found at his residence in Mehsana as he had shifted to another location several years ago.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Kharat had said the state CID had so far received “raw information” regarding the agents involved in the incident and would be able to find out more only after questioning the passengers concerned.
Kharat had said different agents involved in illegal immigration work in tandem.
“The agents working at the village and district levels are small players controlled by a kingpin who works at the international level,” he had said.
The Gujarat police will investigate and get a clear picture of how they operate, he had 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.
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.