Mangalore, May 26: The Mangalore plane crash, which killed 158 people, has also busted open a fake passport racket, which goes under the local name of “Kasargod Embassy.” About 9 passengers who were killed in the plane crash might have been in possession of fake passports, as a result of which their identification and compensation claims will be difficult.
Reliable sources have revealed certain discrepancies in the passports of nine plane crash victims and one survivor. Some of the travelers from Kerala have addresses of Tamil Nadu on their passports. The superintendent of police, the collector of Kasargod, and the additional district magistrate are now trying to investigate the issue in a bid to facilitate speedy identification of the plane crash victims.
P. Prakash, the superintendent of police, says that it is too early to issue conclusive statements regarding the fake passports. He said that the travel documents must be first verified in detail.
Kasargod Embassy is a generic term used for skilled crooks who change passports by replacing photographs. The offence was first brought to light in the 80s, in spite of which it continues to thrive owing to the ignorance and poverty of the migrants.
Varghese Moolan, the head of the Global Malayalee Foundation based in UAE, said that the poor migrants, most of whom are casual laborers, are fooled by this spurious embassy, which takes advantage of the fact that all sponsors do not return passports to the employees while some lose these vital documents and cannot fly back home. Such unfortunate people approach the Kasargod Embassy and obtain forged travel documents in return for a hefty sum of Rs 25,000 - Rs 30,000. In some cases, Haj pilgrims sell their passports, which racketeers make use of.
A senior crime branch official says that checking the papers of all the passengers abroad the ill-fated plane is difficult because reputed immigration officials and travel agents could also be involved. Ramdas Pothen, the former SP of Kasargod, said that, although the agents are in the district, the operations are carried out from the Gulf.
ADGP Siby has admitted that the racket has been around for a long time. Stressing on the need to take stern action against the racket, he said that passport officers can also indulge in minor offences such as providing wrong information as well as forgery.