Whatever happened to Babubhai Katara human trafficking case?

April 17th, 2008 - 12:16 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Sahil Makkar
New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) Exactly one year ago, police arrested Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babubhai Katara for allegedly smuggling out a woman and a boy on the diplomatic passports of his wife and son at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here. But while Katara is still in jail, police are yet to lay their hands on other MPs whose names had surfaced in the international human trafficking racket.

The arrest of Katara and a few touts had opened a can of worms as sleuths of the crime branch investigating the case subsequently summoned MPs from various political parties for questioning.

Besides Katara, interrogations indicated the alleged involvement of Mitrasen Yadav, Ashok Rawat and Mohammed Tahir Khan, all three of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Ramswaroop Koli of the BJP.

The MPs were accused of using their diplomatic passports to smuggle people out of the country as their family members.

Parliament at that time witnessed uproarious scenes, with political parties indulging in mudslinging. Every nugget of information pertaining to the Katara case hogged the media headlines for nearly one month.

Police probed the matter seriously as the media was hyperactive and put the MPs under immense pressure. They were called for interrogation over and over again, but they kept denying their involvement.

Like other high-profile cases, investigations into the scam too have begun to sink.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau summoned Sanjay Tyagi, a senior police officer, after the investigating officer of the case failed to explain why police had not booked Mitrasen Yadav.

Tyagi told her last year: “Police are working hard to procure some concrete evidence before laying its hand on the other MPs. Police have gathered several documents from various Indian embassies and are examining them to see if some concrete evidence exists against the other MPs.”

The explanation by police prompted Lau to ask, “Or, are you scared (of booking MPs)?” Police obviously denied the suggestion.

When IANS contacted the senior investigating official to know what action police had taken against the other MPs, he said: “We have again sent the documents for further scrutiny. Action would be taken after we receive the report.”

But he failed to say when the report would be received.

Also, while investigating officials may take credit for unearthing the racket, it came to light just by chance when some airline officials got suspicious and alerted the security agencies.

It all tumbled out April 18, 2007, after a woman passenger of the same Toronto-bound Air India flight that was carrying Katara lost her passport and blamed the airport staff for it.

The airline staff launched a search immediately to trace the missing passport. While checking the passports of Katara’s “family members”, the officials found that the photographs did not match with the faces of the passengers.

The staff informed immigration officials and they were arrested. Police later arrested Sunder Lal Yadav, a travel agent, Rajendra Kumar Gampa, Katara’s aide, and their female accomplice Kiran Dhar from the city.

Gampa, a part-time office assistant of the MP, was held on charges of forging documents and passports and Yadav was charged with arranging fake visas.

Kiran Dhar allegedly used to “train” women travelling with MPs on forged passports on how to behave and speak at the immigration counter and on flights. “She taught women how to carry themselves while travelling with the MPs.”

A few days later Hyderabad Police arrested key tout Mohammed Shamim.

Katara reportedly confessed before policemen to accepting Rs.800,000 from the Rs.2 million charged from every client.

Police at that time said a total of 11 people went abroad through the racket.

“According to documentary evidence, at least 11 people - two women, two girls and seven men - have been sent to the US, Britain and Canada from Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh in the past three years,” Deputy Commissioner of Police A.S. Cheema had said.

“We are struggling to ascertain their real identities as they might have travelled abroad on fake visa and other documents,” he said.

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