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Indian trafficking ring exposed in Russia-Ukraine war

The CBI has exposed a human trafficking racket luring Indians with job promises, only to exploit them and allegedly force them into the Russia-Ukraine war zone against their consent, uncovering a widespread organized crime syndicate spanning multiple states.

On March 6, the probe agency registered a case of human trafficking. The CBI is working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies to bring the accused to justice.

Commenting on the network, the probe agency said: ‘These traffickers have been operating as an organized network and were luring Indian nationals through social media channels like YouTube, and their local contacts/agents for highly paid jobs in Russia.’

‘Thereafter, the trafficked Indians were trained in combat roles and deployed at front bases in the Russia-Ukraine War Zone against their wishes, thus, putting their lives in grave danger. It has been ascertained that some of the victims also got grievously injured in the war zone,’ a spokesperson for the CBI said.

According to the CBI, around 35 individuals have fallen victim to this nefarious network, resulting in two tragic deaths amid the conflict. Once the unsuspecting individuals arrived in Russia, the traffickers would subject them to combat training and subsequently deploy them to the war zones, disregarding their consent and safety.

Tragic consequences and heartbreaking stories

Tragically, the crackdown comes in the wake of the deaths of two Indians who were deceived into traveling to Russia, only to perish in the ongoing conflict.

One victim, speaking anonymously, revealed how he and others were deceived by false promises of substantial monthly salaries, only to discover upon arrival that they were unwittingly being drafted into military roles.

The investigation is still underway, but the development comes a day after a 30-year-old man from Hyderabad, Mohammed Afsan, who had been allegedly duped into joining the Russian army, was killed by opposition soldiers.

He is the second Indian to be killed in the conflict after a man from Gujarat, Hamil Mangukiya from Surat, was killed about a week ago. Mohammed Imran, Afsan’s brother, wrote back to the Moscow embassy on X, asking for proof of the death.

Imran had told recently that he was planning to go to Moscow to trace his brother and bring him home. Imran later explained that although he had received a call from the Moscow embassy confirming the death, the recruiting agent claimed his brother was alive and would get some proof by Tuesday.

Like Afsan, a number of youths from Telangana and other places in India were assured of jobs in Russia with hefty salaries and no prospect of physical danger. The agent also allegedly collected Rs 3.5 lakh each from those whom he facilitated the travel to Russia.

At no point in the process did he indicate that they were being recruited for the Russian army.

Dismantling the network: A coordinated effort

In a concerted effort to dismantle the human trafficking ring, the CBI has registered a case against 19 agents, individuals, and visa consultancy firms operating across Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Ambala, Chandigarh, Madurai, and Chennai.

Simultaneous searches were conducted at approximately 13 locations, leading to the seizure of substantial cash amounting to over ₹50 lakh, incriminating documents, electronic devices, and CCTV footage.

The firms identified as being involved in the alleged offences include 24×7 RAS Overseas Foundation and its director Suyash Mukut, OSD Bros Travels & Visa Services Pvt Ltd and its director Rakesh Pandey, Adventure Visa Services Pvt Ltd and its director Manjeet Singh, as well as Baba Vlogs Overseas Recruitment Solutions Pvt Ltd and its director Faisal Abdul Mutalib Khan alias Baba.

The agency also suspected the involvement of a Delhi-based consultancy, which allegedly recently sent over 180 Indians on student visas. Whether these students were also deployed in the war zone areas in Russia was being investigated.

Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had issued a warning to Indian citizens regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine after reports emerged of Indian nationals being unknowingly recruited.

The MEA has also taken up the matter with Russian authorities to ensure the early discharge of these individuals. MEA revealed around 20 Indians were still stranded in Russia, and the government was making efforts to bring them back.

Exploiting desperation and unemployment

Unfortunately, such cases of human trafficking and exploitation are not isolated. The prevalence of unemployment and the search for better economic opportunities often make individuals vulnerable to the deceptive tactics employed by criminal networks.

In a nation grappling with widespread joblessness and limited prospects, the allure of lucrative employment abroad can prove irresistible to many. These traffickers capitalize on this desperation, using false promises and elaborate schemes to ensnare their victims.

The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of awareness and education regarding the risks associated with unverified job offers and the tactics employed by human traffickers. This knowledge gap creates an environment where individuals become easy targets.

The uncovering of this human trafficking network serves as a stark reminder of the persistent challenges posed by organized crime syndicates and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. It underscores the need for robust law enforcement efforts, international cooperation, and a comprehensive approach to combat this global scourge.

Only through sustained vigilance, stringent regulations, and a commitment to protecting human rights can we safeguard the dignity and well-being of our citizens from the clutches of such greedy and morally bankrupt outfits.