By: Shubham Ghosh
Police in Mehsana in the western Indian state of Gujarat have lodged a first information report (FIR) against three agents allegedly involved in an illegal migration racket after four members of a family from Mehsana district lost their lives while trying to cross into the US from Canada, an official said on Thursday (4).
The police step came more than a month after the deaths. No arrest has been made yet.
According to the FIR, the three agents allegedly took Rs 60 lakh from the kin of the deceased in Ahmedabad in Gujarat and forced the four victims to take a boat ride to cross the St Lawrence river on the US-Canada border amid turbulent weather, which ended in the boat capsizing, J S Rabari, inspector at Mehsana’s Vasai police station, said.
The deceased — Pravinbhai Chaudhary, 50; his wife Daksha, 45; their daughter Vidhi, 24, and son Meet, 20 — were natives of Manekpura-Dabhal village in Vijapur taluka of Mehsana where Chaudhary used to do farming, as per the FIR.
The Canadian police earlier said bodies of the four persons were found on the banks of the St Lawrence river between Quebec in Canada and New York in the US on March 30.
“Based on a complaint by a relative of the deceased, we lodged an FIR on Wednesday (3) against three persons in connection with the death of a couple and their two children on the US-Canada border on March 30,” Rabari said, adding no arrest has been made yet.
The case was registered against Nikulsinh Vihol, Sachin Vihol and Arjunsinh Chavda under Indian Penal Code Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), the FIR said.
Nikulsinh and Sachin belong to Vadasan village in Mehsana, while Arjunsinh, who is the husband of Sachin’s sister, is a resident of Dadhiyal village in Mehsana.
As per the FIR, registered based on a complaint made by Pravinbhai’s younger brother Ashvinbhai, the Chaudhary family went to Canada on a visitors’ visa on February 3 claiming they were going there on a vacation.
Upon learning that Pravinbhai was in Canada, Nikulsinh, who knew him for some time, called him and offered to send the family to the US through his connections. He allegedly sought Rs 60 lakh to help the family in crossing the border without any trouble, the FIR said.
Convinced by the offer, Pravinbhai asked Ashvinbhai to arrange for Rs 60 lakh cash and give it to Nikulsinh. The complainant took loans and borrowed money from his relatives and friends to make the payment, the FIR said.
Nikulsinh and Arjunsinh took the cash on March 23 near a temple in Vijapur while Sachin was in Canada to make the arrangements.
At the time of taking money, the duo told the complainant that the Chaudhary family will be taken to the US side in a taxi by Sachin.
However, Sachin, who was accompanying the family, changed the plans and told Pravinbhai that they have to cross the border in a boat, a proposal instantly rejected by the family as the weather was already bad in that region.
Despite the family’s apprehensions, Sachin convinced them to sit in the boat claiming they will reach the other side in just five to seven minutes and there was no need to worry, said the FIR. Sachin also told the family that they will not get such a chance again if they refuse to cross the border in the boat, it said.
After boarding the boat on March 30, Vidhi messaged Ashvinbhai that the boat’s engine stopped working on several occasions midway and the weather was also not good. After some time, Ashvinbhai lost contact with the family as they stopped responding to his messages or calls.
When Ashvinbhai contacted Nikulsinh to know the status of the family as Sachin was in touch with him, Nikulsinh first gave some excuses and he then switched off his phone and went underground with Arjunsiunh, the FIR said.
The last rites of the four deceased were performed in Canada on April 10 with the help of some of their relatives residing there.
(With PTI inputs)