A Bengaluru Police probe into the trafficking of Nepali women to the Middle East has found that two key immigration officers, on deputation to the Bureau of Immigration from the Central Intelligence Bureau, had ensured a human trafficking gang safe passage allegedly for Rs 15,000 per woman.
Police have now written to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking its sanction to prosecute the two IB officials working at the Kempegowda International Airport, Assistant Foreigners Regional Registration Officer L T Deepak (39) and his assistant Shailendra Kumar (29). In the chargesheet, police have named the IB officers as key facilitators.
Two Karnataka Police constables, D H Lokesh and Vishwanath Math, earlier deputed to the immigration department, are also among 10 others accused in the racket. The immigration officials and the policemen arrested are currently out on bail.
The trafficking ring was busted on December 11, last year, when police acting on a tip-off raided a lodge in the the old city area. At the lodge, police found 35 Nepali women in two rooms, all waiting to be trafficked to countries in the Middle East by a gang of Nepali and Indian men.
Bengaluru could be new exit point for trafficking
Bengaluru is suspected to have become a point of exit for trafficking of women and girls after recent crackdowns in places like Delhi airport. Trafficking from Nepal to India through porous borders has been a serious problem for decades. Recently there has been increase in trafficking of women via India to Gulf countries. Poverty, the 2015 earthquake and poor policing are often cited as the root of the problem of trafficking of women from Nepal.
The investigation revealed that between November 19 and December 10, 2018, as many as 40 women from Nepal were flown out of the Bengaluru by the gang.
A key operator of the trafficking racket B Navaraj alias Navaraj Basnet alias Bahadur Thapa who sent the women from Nepal to Bengaluru and was holding them in the lodge with the help of his local aides – after taking away their passports to purportedly obtain tourist visas – is still at large.
In court documents, police have alleged that the women who were brought to India were being sent to “other countries through the Kempegowda International Airport for the purpose of unlawful gain under the guise of providing jobs – to ultimately force them to indulge in prostitution”.
The police version of the human trafficking racket, documented in the chargesheet filed in court recently, reveals a story of desperate, poor women from Nepal paying agents between Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 to get jobs in countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE – ostensibly as domestic help.
“My family is very poor and struggling to make a living in Nepal. The burden of looking after the family was on my shoulders. I came in contact with Navaraj through a friend. He said he would find me a job abroad if I paid him Rs 30,000,” one of the women rescued in December told a local court in her official statement.
According to her, she managed to pay Navaraj Rs 20,000 and he arranged a Nepal passport for her and later told her that she would be provided a job in a Gulf country.
Once held at the lodge in Bengaluru, under Navaraj’s four aides, who have been arrested, the passports of the women were taken with the promise of facilitating their travel abroad in a few days.
Navaraj and a travel agent, G Venkateshwara Rao had arrangements with immigration officials like AFRRO Deepak and Shailendra Kumar to ensure safe passage for the trafficked women through immigration, police found.
In a crucial bit of evidence, the police found CCTV footage of a reported payment of Rs 3 lakh to Deepak in a Bengaluru jewellery store by Rao in January 2018.