December 4, 2007
H/l: Airhostesses new conduits in passport scams?
Intro: 72 airhostesses under scanner; 1 arrested for attempting illegal passage of businessman to US
From: Vrushali Lad
Mumbai: Airline hostesses looking to transport relatives to the US and UK, for pleasure or for business, will be a worried lot from now on. A Jet Airways airhostess working in Mumbai was nabbed last week by crime branch officials for attempting an illegal passage of Ahmedabad businessman Rajesh Trivedi (32) to the US.
Trivedi, a computer professional, reportedly paid Rs 20 lakhs for a passport and visa, and was to pose as airline hostess Alia Rizvi’s (24) husband. Alia received some part of the money, and her role was to help in processing a fake marriage document and apply to the US Consulate for a visa.
Following this arrest, and after the US Consulate in Mumbai alerted cops since they “thought something was amiss” with Rizvi’s application to take her “husband” to the US on a “business trip”, crime branch officials have brought all such applications pending with the Consulate and made by airhostesses under its scanner.
As per figures furnished by the Consulate, said a senior official, 72 airline hostesses working with various reputed airlines have applied for the passage of their relatives to the US. “We are not saying that all these applications are fraudulent, but we are investigating each application for credibility,” he said.
However, quipped Rakesh Maria, joint police commissioner (crime), “The airlines are not to be blamed for their staff’s misdemeanours. That airhostesses are the middlemen for such scams shows individual entrepreneurial spirit.”
In this scam, Maria said, the crime branch has already arrested the main culprit, one Altaf Sayyad, an agent functioning out of a suburban office, apart from two other agents, one in Mira Road and the other in Ahmedabad. “We are still ascertaining if there more agents and middlemen involved,” he said yesterday.
Eight passports have been seized in this connection, apart from fake stamps and visas. “This same group has sent three people in this year to the US,” Maria added. In a related case, the crime branch has cracked down on one Aslam Panchal who is responsible for making 45 fake passports and for sending as many people to the UK in two years.