For the second time in the space of two years, a similar scenario played out at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport last week — a passenger from a South Asian country eager to move to Europe seeking asylum and better job opportunities swaps passports with a European national, but is stopped by an Immigration official while her alleged co-conspirator is nabbed minutes before flying to Ahmedabad.
This time it was 28-year-old Kuhapriya Thevarasa of Sri Lanka who allegedly attempted to fly to Frankfurt on Friday using a French passport. The airlines official who inspected Theverasa’s documents found that the passport bearing the name Miira Mirva Helena Pasma had a fake Immigration stamp and immediately alerted her supervisor.
The police claimed that Theverasa confessed to having procured the passport form a travel agent known to her parents, whom she had met in Delhi in October 2018. According to the police, Thevarasa had been working at a hotel in Delhi and was keen to move to Germany to find a better job.
For a fee of Rs 14 lakh, however, the agent, Arulappa Anthony Michael is alleged to have promised to make arrangements for Theverasa to fly to Germany, where she would need to show authorities a German passport and seek asylum. After working in Delhi for two months, Theverasa traveled to Indonesia, worked there for another a three months, before returning to the capital, the police said.
Micheal, the police said, instructed Theverasa to fly to Chennai and then on to Mumbai on June 28. An official at Sahar police station said that Michael handed over a boarding pass for an Air India flight to Ahmedabad. At the airport, Theverasa is alleged to have checked in for the domestic flight and simply walked over to the international departure gates by virtue of being in the same terminal, the police said. “There, her agent introduced her to Pasma, who was told to hand over French and German passports bearing her name to Theverasa in the women’s toilet,” said an official at Sahar police station.
After the women parted ways, Pasma, a 59-year-old teacher from Finland, was to board the Air India Ahmedabad flight but was intercepted before she could take her seat. The police claimed that Pasma, who is in India on a tourist visa, had been asked by a friend named Lawrence Soriana in Chennai to help facilitate Theverasa’s travel to Germany. The police alleged that Pasma and Soriana had also previously helped other passengers travel to Europe using forged documents. Both women were booked for committing human trafficking, cheating and forgery, produced in court on Monday and remanded to police custody until July 6. The police is looking for Michael and Soriana.
Advocate Prabhakar Tripathi, who is representing the women, argued that the police had erred in charging them with human trafficking. “The Sri Lankan national wanted to go to Europe on her own free will, she was not forced to travel. The Finnish woman was duped by the travel agent into providing her details,” he claimed.
Before them, Immigration officials had caught four Sri Lankan nationals attempting to travel to London using forged British passports in March 2017. The four UK nationals who had lent them their names to create the fake passports were caught just before they were to fly off to Ahmedabad