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Plane held in France over suspected human trafficking concerns arrives in Mumbai
Human Trafficking
Image courtesy: Legend Airlines website

Plane held in France over suspected human trafficking concerns arrives in Mumbai

| @indiablooms | 26 Dec 2023, 08:55 am

An Airbus A340 bound for Nicaragua, which was carrying mostly Indians and grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking charges, has landed in Mumbai.

The departure comes after hours of uncertainty about the plane's status, with several reports indicating that many passengers were reluctant to return to their home countries.

The Legend Airlines flight was detained in France following an anonymous tipoff. The plane was due for refuelling at Vatry airport near Paris.

"The situation is confusing," Liliana Bakayoko, legal counsel for Romania's Legend Airlines, to whom the plane is registered, told a French TV channel and radio network earlier today.

"Some of the passengers were unhappy... because they wanted to continue their journey to Nicaragua as planned."

News agency AFP earlier reported that the plane, suspected of being part of a crime syndicate involved in smuggling people into the United States through Nicaragua, is now under investigation by France's anti-organised crime unit, JUNALCO.

Human trafficking, the suspected crime, carries a sentence of up to 20 years in France.

On Sunday, authorities had indicated that the plane could leave after questioning all on board by local judges.

However, under French law, foreign nationals can be detained for extended periods upon arrival.

Indian citizens aboard the flight have been granted consular access, and the Indian government is working with the French authorities to address the situation.

Indian Embassy in France posted on X: "Thank French Gov and Vatry Airport for quick resolution of the situation enabling Indian passengers to return home & hospitality. Also for working closely with embassy (sic) team, present throughout at the site to ensure welfare and smooth & safe return. Thank agencies (sic) in India, too."

How the passengers were treated

The passengers had been provided with makeshift beds, food, water, and access to toilets and showers directly at the airport, according to officials.

Legend Airlines has asserted that it has done nothing wrong and is willing to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. 

The airline has said it wants to pursue damages from the client who chartered its plane.

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