Sunday, October 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Panchhi admits securing visas for 15 youths
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, October 18
Punjabi Singer Sukhwinder Panchhi, arrested for involvement in human trafficking here on Friday, today revealed that he secured visa for 15 Punjabi youths as a part of his cultural troupes to visit the USA in 1997, youths later disappeared as arranged earlier.

According to highly placed sources, Panchhi revealed the names and addresses of US and England-based promoters, involved in human trafficking under the pretext of promoting Punjabi culture in western countries.

“Panchhi has revealed that 15 Punjabi youths, eight musicians and seven Bhangra artistes, who visited the USA in 1997 as part of his Bhangra troupe, later stayed back there with the help of some USA-based promoters. Amount charged from each individual ranges from Rs 4 to 6 lakhs,” a senior police official disclosed.

The police is trying to unravel the visa racket and scrutinising role of some Delhi and Mumbai-based travel agents, who sold fake visa slips through their chain of agents in different parts of Punjab.

“In fact, Manzoor Ahmed son of Gafoor Bibi was given back his passport bearing a stolen visa to visit Italy by Panchhi, which later was detected by the Immigration authorities at Indira Gandhi International Airport. We are interrogating Panchhi to reveal the names of travel agents based in Delhi and Mumbai to unearth the racket,” police sources said, adding that arrest of Panchhi was just a tip of the iceberg and more arrests would be made in this regard soon.

Panchhi, according to police sources, said that five tour operators of the state were involved in human trafficking. “In fact, human trafficking in the garb of cultural troupes to western and American countries has been taking place for the past two decades. We recently received instructions from the Chief Minister’s Office to deal with such travel agents, who are responsible virtually for the plight of innocent youth,” the police said.

“Special police parties are being dispatched to Delhi to nab suspected travel agents, whose names have figured during investigation,” the police said. Earlier, Panchi was produced in a court here which remanded him in police custody for two days.

The singer was arrested from his Basant Avenue residence on the complaint of Gafoor Bibi, a resident of Sarinh village near here, who alleged that Panchhi had duped her of Rs 2.95 lakh on the pretext of sending her son abroad in 1999.


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