50 ‘miss­ing’ from Ker­ala smug­gled to Oz is­lands?

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Anan­[email protected]­group.com

Kochi: Around 50 peo­ple, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, who ar­rived from Delhi and stayed in the pop­u­lar beach des­ti­na­tion of Cherai for close to a week, have gone miss­ing since Jan­uary 12.

The group, which came as tourists, is be­lieved to be of Tamil ori­gin and sus­pected to have been smug­gled out in a large mo­torised boat from the nearby har­bour of Mun­nam­bam to Christ­mas Is­lands, 4,000 km away from Ker­ala coast and 1,500km north­west of the Aus­tralian main­land. “They were mostly fam­i­lies, with chil­dren in the age group of 6 months to 8 years. Five women were preg­nant. One had a baby at a hospi­tal near Kochi,’’ sources added.

Top in­tel­li­gence sources told TOI the in­ci­dent in­di­cated a well-co­or­di­nated op­er­a­tion, pos­si­bly in­volv­ing in­ter­na­tional hu­man-traf­fick­ing groups. Dur­ing their stay at Cherai, in­di­vid­u­als from the group bought a fish­ing boat pay­ing Rs 1.02 crore cash. They also pur­chased12,000 litres of diesel pay­ing Rs 10 lakh cash up­front.

They also bought five water tanksand medicines, signs that the group had planned a long stay in the wa­ters. “We are yet to con­firm if it’s a case of hu­man traf­fick­ing as their where­abouts are yet to be traced. But we strongly sus­pect they peo­ple were traf­ficked,” Er­naku­lam (Ru­ral dis­trict) SP Rahul R Nair told TOI.

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