Punjabi ‘journalist’ held in Australia for suspected ‘kabootarbaazi’

The Hush Post: In a shocking case, an Indian journalist has been arrested by the Australian Police in a suspected ‘kabootarbaazi’ case.

The 46-year-old Indian journalist Rakesh Kumar Sharma was detained at Brisbane Airport yesterday by the Australian Border Force (ABF). Sharma was detained with eight Indian co-travellers whose accreditation details were found to not be genuine.

Charging him with ‘smuggling of people’, ABF has said that Sharma was trying to ‘fake a media contingent.’ ABF has charged Sharma with offences under the Migration Act 1958. He has also been charged with people smuggling, after he allegedly facilitated the travel of the ‘fake media contingent’ to attend the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games scheduled from next week.

All these nine people arrived at Brisbane Airport with Temporary Activity Visas and claimed to be accredited media representatives to cover the Commonwealth Games.

Suspicion on the nine travellers was raised by the Bangkok based ABF Airline Liaison Officer (ALO). The flight was on transit through Thailand when the ALO felt that the nine may be “non-genuine travellers”. On reaching Brisbane, they were questioned by ABF officers who found that eight had fraudulent foreign media credentials. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers were called who arrested and charged Sharma who appeared in Brisbane court today.

If proved guilty, Sharma could face a maximum of 20 years in jail. As per a statement issued by the AFP: “The police will allege in court that the Indian national who did hold valid credentials was facilitating the group’s travel.”

Sharma has been remanded to custody and will appear in court on April 6. The other eight Indians have been taken into immigration detention.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games, commonly known as Gold Coast 2018, are scheduled to be held from April 4 to 15 in Queensland, Australia.

ABF Regional Commander Queensland Terry Price has said in a statement that while the forces were working hard to ensure smooth entry for legitimate Commonwealth Games visitors, attempts to exploit the event and Australia’s visa programme will not be tolerated.

He added: “Anyone wishing to enter Australia, including athletes, team officials, spectators and the media must hold a valid visa and accreditation and must be deemed to be a legitimate visitor.”

As with all travellers, the ABF will process all Commonwealth Games visitors on arrival and anyone found not to be here for legitimate purposes can expect to have their visas cancelled and to be turned around, he said, adding that this may occur on arrival or prior to boarding flights to Australia.


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