50 ‘missing’ from Kerala smuggled to Oz islands?
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.