Plane with 303 Indian passengers bound for Nicaragua still immobilized in France

Paris, Dec 23 (EFE). – A plane with 303 Indian passengers bound for Nicaragua remains immobilized at a French airport due to suspicions of human trafficking, in a case in which two people were arrested on Saturday.

Since Thursday, Dec. 21, the plane of the Romanian company Legend Airlines, which was supposed to fly from Dubai to Nicaragua, has been immobilized at the Paris-Vatry airport (Marne), where it landed for a technical stop, as explained by the authorities.

On Sunday, a three-day series of hearings of the passengers will begin before four judges who will be specifically brought to the airport to question the passengers and determine whether they can continue to be detained, the regional newspaper L’Union reported this evening.

The administrative detention of these people can last up to 96 hours, a period that can be extended with a court decision, sources close to the investigation explained to EFE.

The airfield has been closed, forcing flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday to be diverted.

On Thursday, the authorities intervened after receiving an anonymous complaint that among the passengers were victims of human trafficking, so an investigation led by the Paris prosecutor’s office was opened.

French authorities are now investigating an alleged case of organized human trafficking, a crime punishable in France by a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to 3 million euros (3.3 million dollars) in fines, the prosecutor’s office said.

The passengers were disembarked and questioned, as was the crew, and two of the passengers were detained by the police.

The investigation continues with the participation of judicial and administrative authorities specialized in international human trafficking.

In France detention can last a maximum of 48 hours and both detainees will continue to be interrogated.

Among the passengers are 11 unaccompanied minors who have been assigned representatives, according to sources close to the public prosecutor’s office.

In addition, 58 of the passengers have requested asylum in France, L’Union reported, citing judicial sources.

The lobby of the airport has been transformed into an improvised shelter with single beds in order to offer the passengers “the best reception conditions”, according to the prefecture of the Marne department, and hygiene products, medical care and regular meals have also been distributed.

A lawyer representing the airline, Liliana Bakayoko, told BFM channel on Saturday that the flight had been booked by “a reliable client of the company”.

The lawyer refused to name the client, citing the right to the presumption of innocence, but clarified that it was a company “registered outside the European Union” and with which Legend Airlines had operated some flights in the past.

Bakayoko insisted that the airline had nothing to do with any possible irregularities, as all passengers had valid passports and visas and had passed police checks at the airport of departure.

She added that the French authorities released all crew members after questioning them.

Meanwhile, the airport continues to be cordoned off and surrounded by police to prevent the departure of passengers and the entry of people from abroad.

The Indian Embassy in France said on X (formerly Twitter) that it was offering consular assistance to its citizens and that it was “investigating the situation and ensuring the well-being of the passengers.”

Consulate personnel have also been dispatched to Varty, the embassy added, thanking the French authorities for their work “during the long weekend of the Christmas holidays.”

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