The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case of human trafficking against three people for allegedly duping 25 teenage students and their families into believing that they were being taken to France for a rugby training and then leaving them stranded there at the mercy of human traffickers.
The racket came to light when French officials found one of the boys with no valid documents and alerted Interpol.
The three accused Delhi-based agents Lalit David Dean, Sanjeev Raj and Varun Choudhary have been charged with criminal conspiracy, human trafficking, cheating, forgery and using fake documents.
Here's how the youth were trafficked
Early in 2016, the agents lured parents on the pretext of taking their children to France for rugby training.
According to CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal, the parents, belonging to Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, were charged Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh each for the trip.
In fact, in order to prove the authenticity of the training camp, the accused conducted a small training session in India for the 25 boys, aged between 13 and 18 years. They also managed to secure visas for the children.
"The agents procured an invitation card from France about the purported rugby training camp, on the basis of which visa was procured from the French embassy and to and fro tickets were booked," Dayal was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The report also said that on reaching France, the boys were lodged at a Gurudwara by either the agents or their representatives.
A rugby session spanning for a week was also organised in Paris before things went awry. The agents, who had kept the documents of the victims, cancelled the return tickets without informing them or the parents.
"It is alleged that the children were left at a gurdwara in Paris and their return tickets were cancelled by the accused persons. Suspecting that something was amiss, two of the children escaped and managed to return to Delhi," said the CBI official.
When the French authorities came across one of the victims, he informed them about the racket and the CBI was informed.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the other victims are not yet known.
"It is not known yet where in France or Europe those 22 remaining kids are. They might have been sold to someone or put in some job," a CBI official who chose to remain anonymous was quoted by TOI.
Efforts are being made to locate and rescue them.