The police officer embroiled in a case linked to human trafficking, to be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, continues to report for duty at the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL).
Manoj K. Varghese, owner of India Elements, an event management firm, had filed a case of harassment against J. Kuriakose, Circle Inspector, Immigration, at the Aluva Judicial First Class Magistrate-II in connection with an alleged human trafficking bid.
In 2010, Mr. Varghese’s firm got an invitation from a sponsor to host a month-long tour of cine artists in the U.S.
He immediately prepared a list of 11 artistes, including actors Sweta Menon and Guinness Pakru. The artistes applied for visa after signing an agreement with the sponsors.
However, Mr. Varghese was surprised to find that the U.S. consulate had approved visas for 15 persons.
The team soon learnt that the sponsors were allegedly trying to smuggle four people under the cover of the programme.
Mr. Pakru, who was the team leader, said one of the ‘fake’ artistes was included in the list as his assistant.
“I refused to travel with him, as it would have tainted my image if the case came to light.” He said the team realised there were four additional people only when they turned up for visa interview at the U.S. Consulate. They were meeting the artistes for the first time as they performed stage shows without any rehearsal.
Mr. Varghese immediately filtered out the four ‘fake’ artistes and went ahead with the U.S. tour.
However, two of the four, who were left out from the list submitted by the sponsor, lodged a complaint with the Inspector General of Police, Ernakulam.
They claimed that Mr. Varghese had collected Rs.25,000 each from them on the promise that he would take them abroad.
The then Angamaly Circle Inspector Bijo Alexander was asked to look into the complaint. The case was settled after Mr. Varghese produced all the travel documents and proved that he had indeed foiled a human trafficking attempt.
But in 2011, Mr. Kuriakose reopened the case after he succeeded Mr. Alexander as Angamaly CI. He summoned Mr. Varghese and asked him to pay the amount demanded by the complainants. Mr. Varghese then handed over Rs.25,000 each to the complainants in the presence of Mr. Kuriakose.
Mr. Varghese then filed a request under the Right to Information Act after the cheque for the amount was encashed.
The RTI application showed that no new complaint was filed which warranted a reopening of the case. This meant that Mr. Kuriakose had allegedly hoodwinked him into paying the money.
He filed a complaint with the State Police Chief and moved the court against Mr. Kuriakose.
After hearing the case, the Aluva JFMC-II raised doubts on whether the State government’s permission was needed to prosecute Mr. Kuriakose. Mr. Varghese challenged the court’s move. The District Sessions Court is expected to issue an order on the matter on May 22.
On probing further, it was learnt that Mr. Kuriakose was one of the officials under the radar of the Crime Branch. He was seen as a suspect by the Crime Branch in the human trafficking case at CIAL. Mr. Kuriakose had joined CIAL on deputation after P.A. Ajeeb (the Civil Police Officer who has been arraigned as the main accused in the human trafficking case and arrested subsequently) left.
This proved that there was no direct connection between him and Mr. Ajeeb. However Crime Branch officials claim there is evidence that links him to human trafficking activities.