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Mumbai’s secret global export: Humans

The list of people arrested in an intricate plot to smuggle human beings across the globe from Mumbai is growing, reports Debasish Panigrahi.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2007 02:37 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

Crime Branch officials have their hands full with two simultaneous visa scam rackets – involving sending people illegally to the US and UK.

A day after seven government officials were arrested for their involvement in the UK racket, the Crime Branch has now identified at least five “rich businessmen” from Mumbai involved in the illegal US immigration racket.

A senior Crime Branch officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told HT on Friday that the involvement of the businessmen surfaced during a scrutiny of the visa applications made to the US consulate this year. Their applications are amongst the 72 applications which came under scanner following the expose of the racket.

These businessmen were frequent flyers to the US and had travelled with their family in the past, the officer said. “Because of their frequent visits, their applications (visa) are given priority by the consulate and they cashed in on the privilege.”

They were contacted by the racket's kingpin – Santacruz-based tour operator Altaf Sheikh – and they agreed to smuggle his clients at a price. Sheikh had allegedly prepared bogus documents to identify his clients as spouse/family members of the businessmen and the visa application had been made accordingly. The businessmen were likely to be arrested “very soon”, the officer added.

“Sheikh had identified them (the businessmen) from the confidential ‘frequent flyer's list’ of various international airlines flying from Mumbai to the US and approached them for the ‘job’.”

Using a similar modus operandi, Sheikh had, with the help of his associate and Bandra-based boutique owner Yusuf Baig, approached Jet Airways hostess Aliya Rizvi who had agreed to smuggle a person by identifying him as her husband.

The officer said the scrutiny of the other applications were underway and it was suspected that some software professionals and aircrew were also roped in by the racketeers to smuggle their clients. A hunt was also on to trace more forgers who used to prepare bogus documents for the racket, the officer said.

On Thursday, the Crime Branch arrested three passport officials, two policemen and two postmen in connection with the UK illegal immigration racket. This takes the total number of accused to 22.

Passport officials Nareshkumar Dayabhai (42), Ashok Chandiramani (51) and Pradeep Shelar (47) were arrested from the Surat passport office.

Dayabhai was arrested for a similar offence in 2001, while Chandiramani and Shelar were arrested in 2006.

Police constables Nitin More (35), Mahadev Londe (35) were attached to the Byculla police station and postmen Maruti Shinde (37) and Mohan Vichare (44) served at the Mazgaon post office.