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A TSI EXPOSE

INDIA EN DANGERED

 

From maoist commanders to mafia dons, all sorts of dangerous people have been caught in india with fake nepalese passports. undercover correspondent Mayank Singh explores the deep corners of this secret industry as he goes back and forth acquiring fake passports
TSI | Issue Dated: May 6, 2007
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INDIA EN DANGERED On 6 April 2007, swashbuckling Devinder Singh, better known as Bunty, India’s most colourful car thief, was caught in New Delhi by a quirk of fate, when he couldn’t get away in a car in time. Bunty was wanted in more than 200 cases. Among the belongings found on his person was a fake Nepalese passport in the name of Hari Thapa. Last year, the police in Chennai arrested one of Nepal’s top Maoist leaders, C.P. Gajurel, for trying to use a forged Nepalese passport en route to London.

On 26 December 2000, when Indian flight IC814 from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked, four of the five hijackers walked across the airstrip and got into the airplane with the help of the fifth hijacker who held a Nepalese passport. As far back as 30 August 1985, the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) was making efforts to extradite Babloo Srivastava from Singapore. Srivastava was caught in Singapore with a fake passport, which identified him as a Nepalese national, Arun Kumar Agrawal. The passport was issued from the External Affairs office in Kathmandu.

From a trickle in the 80s, the commerce of counterfeit Nepalese passports seems to have grown to massive proportions. High profile criminals are targeting India (like the above cases) and using fraudulent Nepalese passports to enter and exit from India. How easy is it to acquire a fake Nepalese passport? Where are the shady deals struck? Who are the people involved? TSI and the news channels CNN-IBN and IBN7, partners in the operation, swung into action.

THE HUNT

One had to start with getting a new mobile phone number, tactfully spread the word and spot possible places where we could start. Paharganj, near the New Delhi Railway Station, is an area with many foreigners, and plenty of Nepalese people to boot. INDIA EN DANGERED After stalking the area for a few days, we approached one of the Nepalese and asked him to take us to an agent. The Nepalese, who seemed totally at ease in Paharganj, said he could help us get a Nepalese passport and a Nepalese visa.

He gave us a telephone number, which we called the next day from Connaught Place. The voice at the other end was curt and denied that this was possible. We called again the next day. This time, the person asked a few questions.

He wanted to know how we had managed to acquire his telephone number, and what business did we have. We said we wanted to meet him. He agreed to meet us two days later, and we ended the conversation on the promise to talk again and divulge the place where we were to meet.

We settled down at Mavalankar Auditorium, near Parliament, to plan the details. We decided to pose as unemployed youngsters, who were keen on going abroad to earn money. We said we would tell the agent that we wanted Nepalese passports as we had no proof of residence in Delhi to get an Indian passport.

To learn how easy it is to procure a fake passport, we planned to get one of the passports made on the name of a wanted terrorist, and another passport for one of us. We began to shortlist aliases. We became Jagdish, Ravi (who was with us only to ensure that no harm came our way) and Basant.

We decided to meet the agent in front of Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, adjacent to Regal Cinema, in Connaught Place. We conferred for the last time before D-day. INDIA EN DANGERED THE ENCOUNTER

It was 6 April, Friday. We were feeling queasy. We arrived ahead of the 11am appointment. What if things went wrong? We made a call to the agent. He said he was already at the corner of the street. We felt the butterflies in our stomachs. What if we let slip our real names inadvertently? Jagdish, from IBN7, dashed to the subway as he had to switch the spy cam on. I was alone for a few minutes. I saw a well built man, wearing black goggles, coming towards me with Ravi. I was introduced to him as Basant. He didn’t like the handshake and quickly withdrew his hand. Ravi waited for Jagdish, while the agent and I began walking towards the Indian Coffee House, in Mohan Singh Place, Connaught Place.

I began to worry. What will the agent ask? What if our team contradicted each other? Before I could speak, he asked me my name. I replied as convincingly as I could, “Basant”. “UP se hai?” (are you from UP?), he asked. I replied, yes. He gave me a suspicious look. I began to get anxious. What if the others with me said something else? Maybe, the agent will back off. Suddenly, he asked, “Why do you need a Nepalese passport?” I was prepared. I told him that I didn’t have a job and wanted to go to a foreign country to earn money. I urged him to help me at any cost. By now, we had reached the Coffee House. He pointed towards a corner seat.

The room was full with people. They were talking. Then, he said, “Mera naam Dharma hai” (My name is Dharma). At this point, Jagdish and Ravi joined us. Jagdish sat in a position where he could capture Dharma in the spy cam. Jagdish posed as a businessman. He said he needed a Nepalese passport because he met people with dubious backgrounds in other countries as part of his trade and wanted to hide his Indian identity. Dharma said he had an original visa for Holland with him. He asked for Rs three lakh, claiming that he could get us settled in Holland. He added that he would get us the citizenship of Holland in two years. He said honesty was crucial in this trade. The din rose a few decibels, assailing us. Dharma became uneasy at the number of people milling around us. We went to another room and sat on the benches in the middle of the room. We gave him Rs 5,000 each. INDIA EN DANGERED THE SMUGGLING TIPS

Dharma began to take the lead in the conversation. He began giving us tips. “I’ll make you a citizen of whichever country you go to. Just do as I say and keep your identity hidden. Just make sure you tear your passport, ticket and other papers once you are airborne from New Delhi. If you are caught on landing, you’ve been successful (because you’ll be jailed and get bail).” This was fuzzy, but we let it be. He said he had got many settled in the US and Europe and that he had visited almost 15 countries including Russia, Australia and Cuba. Dharma said illegal immigrants with Nepalese passports usually employed three routes: 1) Nepal – India – CIS countries (because they are close to Europe) and onward to European nations, 2) Nepal – India – South Africa (where it is relatively easy to obtain a visa for Europe) en route to Europe, 3) Nepal – India – Cuba – Europe. THE DEAL Dharma said he could get the passports made for Rs 50,000 each. We said we had no jobs and couldn’t afford it. He came down a notch to Rs 40,000, adding that money had to be given to many officials. Finally, he agreed on Rs 30,000 a passport. I planned to get the passport with my photograph, while Jagdish planned to get one on his brother’s photograph.

Dharma said passports are procured by: 1) Stealing original passports in Nepal, where the photograph is changed and the official stamp is affixed as it was in the original. The agents have the original stamps and have forgers on their payrolls to reproduce the original signatures; 2) Passports are made in the name of Nepalese citizens who apply, but don’t collect them. The agents collect passports and convert them into fake ones by changing the photograph; 3) The office of the Chief District Officer in Nepal (the equivalent of District Magistrates in India) has a citizens register. The agents get the photographs of the passport seeker pasted in these registers (this helps one return in case of arrests). The passport is made in the name of a Nepalese citizen and the documents are given to the passport holder. INDIA EN DANGERED PASSPORT ON A TERRORIST’S NAME

Jagdish managed to lay his hands on a photograph of Zahoor Ibrahim Mistry, listed in the 20 Most Wanted People given by India to Pakistan (Mistry was one of the five people who hijacked flight IC-814). Nothing could have shocked us more than managing to get a passport in Mistry’s name. THE PASSPORT

It was seven days since we first made contact. Dharma was waiting at his corner seat. He took out the passports and gave them to us. Just like that. We gave him the rest of the money, i.e. Rs 25,000 for Jagdish’s passport and Rs 20,000 for my passport. He put the cash in separate pockets of his trousers. He seemed to be a little uneasy. He said he was leaving and would return in 20 minutes. He didn’t. AN UNEXPECTED CALL, and a visa

We forgot about Dharma for four days, as we were trying to organise a visa for the US. Suddenly, on 16 April, we got a call from Dharma. He claimed it was a courtesy call. We could sense that he wanted more business. We asked him to arrange a visa. He said he could get us a visa for Holland, Nigeria and maybe other countries. He made a few calls and said he had a visa ready for Cuba. He took the passport that was made in the name of Basant and wanted Rs 40,000 for the visa. We gave it in three installments.

If novices like us could get a fake Nepalese passport and Nepalese visa in seven days each, imagine what hardcore criminals and terrorists can do. INDIA EN DANGERED OTHERS IN THE CLUB OF FAKES

TThe fake passport racket is not confined to India alone. The other major spot is the West Asian region, which has, over the decades, become a hub for terrorist and clandestine activities. As the alma maters of most dreaded terrorists are located in the region, fake passport rackets are very common.

Another notorious belt is in the central and South American region. Most customers here are the poor and needy from Mexico and Colombia, who illegally enter Texas. This belt apparently accounts for the majority of fake passports in the world. Poverty-ridden Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries are another hub. The customer profile here is different. Customers are basically brought by sex workers, who flock to India and other south-Asian countries. A major section of the customers are Turkish workers who flock to Greece and Germany in search of work.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Thailand are famous hubs. The customer profile changes again. This time, the majority are drug peddlers and contraband racketeers. In spite of stringent rules against drug peddling, the region has turned in to a major transit point for drugs. Another hub in the southern hemisphere is Nigeria. The fake passport business in the region is flourishing. The customers are again contraband racketeers. The business of fake passports has spilled to neighbouring countries as well, with Kenya and Ethiopia turning into safe havens for gangsters.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017