France grounds Romanian plane carrying 303 Indian nationals over suspicion of human trafficking.
French authorities grounded a passenger plane carrying 303 Indian citizens, including 11 non-accompanied minors, at the airport of Vatry, on suspicion of human trafficking, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office told CNN on Saturday.
The plane, belonging to Legend Airlines, a company based in Romania, was on its way from the United Arab Emirates to Nicaragua and had stopped over at Vatry airport, roughly 150 kilometers east of Paris, for supply, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
French authorities seized the plane on December 21 after receiving an anonymous tip.
The plane was chartered by a company registered outside of the European Union and Legend Airlines didn’t participate in the ticket selling for this flight, the airline’s lawyer Liliana Bakayoko told CNN affiliate BFMTV on Saturday.
“The cabin crew have all been questioned and have been let go freely,” Bakayoko said, adding that the company which chartered this plane had been a loyal client of Legend Airlines and had chartered several flights before.
Legend Airlines has refused to identify the company citing ongoing investigations.
Under French law, organized human trafficking is punishable with prison terms of up to 20 years and fines of up to $3.3 million (3 million euros).
The minors on the plane were transferred to appropriate government agencies for care.
Prosecutors said on Sunday that the plane was allowed to depart while two passengers who were questioned by police “are still in custody, monitored by the Paris prosecutor’s office.”
India’s embassy in France sent consular staff to the airport to provide support and is in contact with local authorities, it said in a statement Saturday.