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Kurukshetra journo held for smuggling fake media contingent to Australia

The eight men, aged between 20 and 37, were allegedly holding temporary activity visas but claiming to be accredited media representatives.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2018 09:43 IST
Neeraj Mohan
Neeraj Mohan
Hindustan Times, Karnal
Haryana,Haryana crime,Human trafficking
The fake Indian journalists at the Brisbane airport on Wednesday. (AFB)

A journalist from Kurukshetra stares at years in jail in Australia on charges of smuggling people into the country under the garb of a “media contingent” for the Commonwealth Games that start on April 4.

The Australian Border Force (AFB) detained Rakesh Sharma, 46, and eight others at the Brisbane airport on Wednesday for allegedly facilitating forged documents. The eight men, aged between 20 and 37, were allegedly holding temporary activity visas but claiming to be accredited media representatives.

Quoting AFB officials, the Brisbane Times news website said Sharma appeared in a Brisbane magistrate court that remanded him in custody, and the magistrate ordered an interpreter fluent in Hindi to be organised for the next hearing, April 6.

Rakesh Sharma of Kurukshetra works with a Hindi newspaper and is posted in Chandigarh. (AFB)

The offence carries a minimum five-year sentence and maximum of 20 years; the charge applies to anyone accused of smuggling five or more people, reported the Australian media.

Sharma, a resident of Sector 13 in Kurukshetra, works with a Hindi newspaper and is posted in Chandigarh for the past several years. His family in Kurukshetra is not aware why he was detained in Brisbane.

“I don’t know what happened in Australia. I came to know from my brother-in-law that he is in trouble there,” Sharma’s wife Priyanka said.“He left on March 27 saying that he has to catch a flight to Australia at 11am from Delhi, and after that I could not talk to him. I also sent a WhatsApp message to him, but there was no response,” she said. “I don’t know anything about the people travelling with him.”

Priyanka said she will take up the issue with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to get more information about him and to bring him back to India. “About a month ago too, he had gone to Australia for five days. He has visas for several countries, including the US and Japan. But I don’t know what he does there,” she said.

Sharma’s mother Shakuntala Sharma is a state executive member of the ruling BJP.

First Published: Mar 31, 2018 09:41 IST