(Blaine, Washington) U.S. and Canadian authorities announced the dismantling of a human smuggling network responsible for illegally funneling dozens of Indian and Pakistani nationals into Washington State from British Columbia. A federal grand jury in Seattle has handed down indictments for 14 men for their involvement in the smuggling operation. Twelve are in custody and two are being sought.
From The Seattle Times:
Kavel Multani, a Vancouver, B.C., resident, was identified as the alleged ringleader for the operation. Multani, 46, a dual Canadian and Indian citizen, has been charged with nine counts of smuggling and transporting illegal immigrants in the indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday.
In addition to Multani, other Canadians arrested include: Sandip Parhar, 26; Anthony Maclean, 21; Jatinder Brar, 19; Sukveer Sandhu, 18; and Matthew Dehagi, 35. Four Indian nationals were also arrested: Armardeep Singh Powar, 23; Raman Pathania, 19; Harjeevan Parhar, 23; and Harminder Singh, 37. Lastly, one Pakistani national is in custody, Nizar Sabaz-Ali, 38, as is an American from Whidbey Island, Lawrence Carter, 23.
According to Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle, the Indians and Pakistanis paid $35,000 each to be smuggled into the U.S. Winchell also said that no evidence was found to indicate a terrorism connection. As an aside, I would personally be more comfortable if evidence was found to prove they were not connected to terrorists.
In Multani's operation, the Indian and Pakistani nationals were given false documents while they were in their home countries, which helped them get commercial flights to Toronto, said Bud Mercer, chief superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Once in Canada, they were taken to Vancouver, where they were housed until Multani could sneak them across the border into rural Whatcom and Okanogan counties, Winchell said. Once in the U.S., the illegal immigrants were put in hotels until they could get commercial flights to their final destinations within the country.
As can be seen, the network was quite sophisticated. Authorities started investigating the smuggling operation in early 2005 and, after a year of gathering evidence, were finally able to take it down. Canadian and U.S. border officials trumpeted the takedown as a demonstration of their commitment to border security.
Notably, during the year it required for the northern border authorities to build a case against 14 smugglers, an estimated 700,000 Mexicans and other foreigners were smuggled across the southern border.