Shadwell’s scam: First major case of human trafficking in Kerala

Police investigation into the first major case of human trafficking from Kerala, involving Shadwell's, which described itself as an education management company, seems to reveal a well-planned scheme involving deception and suppressed facts.

The police officers were not expecting a big scam when they followed up on a direction from the State police chief to probe activities of Shadwell’s operating from Infopark here.

The police arrested Tom Boby, the Chief Executive Officer, and Suby Kurian, HR Manager of Shadwell’s, on November 9 after they were allegedly found to be involved in an attempt to smuggle unskilled persons to the US disguised as company employees on short tours.

In reality, the institution was operating from a space called Nirmal Infopark, a non-resident Kerala initiative at the Kinfra Export Promotional Park in Kakkanad.

During the preliminary investigations the investigators realised that they were handling the first major case of human trafficking in recent times.

Tom Boby was to take home a fee of Rs. one lakh for every person successfully smuggled to the United States of America.

The agent involved in the process will get Rs. 50,000 and the person who brought in the prospective clients will get Rs. 5,000 per person. However, the elaborate planning made to get these persons, mostly unskilled labourers, were foiled when the first batch of four triggered suspicion at the US Consulate in Chennai during personal interviews for visas.

The modus operandi was to send the batch on a short visit of one to three months’ duration. Once there, it would be the responsibility of the illegal immigrant to find a job. The role of Shadwell’s in sending the people abroad ended at the airport, the police said.

Preliminary investigations showed that Tom Boby was in deep financial crisis. Police sources said that the rent for space taken for the institution at Infopark at Rs. four lakh a month was pending for four months.

He later on rented a space at Padivattom for Rs. 60,000 per month, which was pending for two months. Salaries of the staff were also pending, investigations showed.

When contacted, senior officials of the Infopark here confirmed that the accused was misusing the label of their premises to improve his business prospects.

Representatives of the Nirmal Infopark told The Hindu that legal notices were issued to Shadwell’s for leaving the premises first after learning that Shadwell’s violated the rent agreement. The latter had rented the space claiming to run IT-enabled services but it later came to light that they were operating a training centre.

The rent was not paid after that, following which the Nirmal Infopark issued eviction notice, to which there was no response, they said.

Sources in the city police said HR manager Suby Kurian was not earning any direct commission for trafficking persons.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 12:33:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/shadwells-scam-first-major-case-of-human-trafficking-in-kerala/article4105064.ece

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