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Before she was caught in March for allegedly aiding four Sri Lankan nationals to illegally travel to the UK with forged Indian passports, a British woman also helped six other Sri Lankans make the journey.
The Sahar police have identified British national Julie Ann Warner and Sri Lankan agent Rayappen Thevakumaran (52), who was arrested at Chennai airport on May 4, as the main conspirators in the racket to send Sri Lankans to UK using forged Indian passports. Another Sri Lankan travel agent Mahamuni Logorajan and an Indian agent Rajan, both currently absconding, are also allegedly involved in the racket.
After Chennai immigration officers handed over Thevakumaran to the Sahar police on May 5, the latter have claimed that between January and February this year, six Sri Lankan nationals travelled to London from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
According to the Sahar police, the accused facilitated the illegal travel of Sri Lankan nationals Velummylum Subaharan, Vadivelu Sivarpalingam and Arunthavale Sivathas to London on February 11, 2017. In documents submitted by the police to the Andheri court last week while seeking Thevakumaran’s custody, the police said that on February 26, 2017, three others — Thangavadivel Partheepan, Krishnamoorthy Sanjon and Annalingam Sivakumar — also made the trip to London.
Like in March, the Sri Lankan nationals were first flown to Mumbai and booked into rooms in a hotel near the international airport. The police said the travel agents simultaneously flew down British nationals to Mumbai and made forged Indian passports bearing their names.
On the day of the flight, the British nationals would collect boarding passes and hand them over to the Sri Lankan nationals, who would use the forged passports to board British Airways flights. The two would meet in the departure lounge after clearing security to board different flights on which they were booked simultaneously.
On March 10, immigration officers at the Mumbai airport had first intercepted four Sri Lankans as they attempted to board the London flight under assumed names and later caught Warner and her three compatriots who were flying to Ahmedabad, before returning to London. All eight accused are currently in judicial custody.
According to the police, the UK government had placed restrictions on Sri Lankans entering the country after an influx of refugees in the 1990s during the Sri Lankan civil war, leading some Sri Lankans to approach the travel agents who acquired forged Indian passports for them.
According to the police, in January and February, Warner had roped in British nationals Phillip Gary Hodder, Paul Lovett, Richard James, Terrence John Mackay and Dutch national Andreasa Marie Stoffels and made forged Indian passports in their names.
An officer at Sahar police said that during each trip, Rajan would meet the Sri Lankans in Mumbai, book them into hotels and take them to the airport. “Logorajan would meet the Sri Lankans at the airport, give them them their forged passports and instructions to board the London flight and introduce them to the British nationals — part of the identity switch,” said the officer.
“We are also investigating how many other Sri Lankans were sent illegally to the UK in this manner,” said Baburao Mukhedkar, senior inspector, Sahar police station.
The police are yet to find agents Rajan and Logorajan. An officer who is part of the investigation said that Logorajan is suspected to have returned to Sri Lanka on March 10.
Advocate Prabhakar Tripathi, who is representing Warner and three other jailed British nationals, said that he will soon move the sessions court seeking bail for his clients, since the police has arrested Thevakumaran, who, Tripathi claims, is the prime conspirator in the case.