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Three British Sikhs who pulled off a Passport Scam in 2014 plead guilty in Court

British Sikhs accept involvement in Passport Scam helping Afghans to enter UK illegally

Sikh Community, Wikimedia

London, Mar 17, 2017: Three Sikhs in British have admitted involvement in a passport scam under which they misused the passports of their family members to help Afghan asylum seekers in entering the UK wearing turbans to hide their identity in 2014.

Harmit Kapoor, Daljit kapoor and Davinder chawla, all three cousins in their 40s, pleaded guilty before the commencement of their trial at Inner London Crown Court on Tuesday, as stated in a PTI report.

They accepted two conspiracy charges in helping Afghan asylum seekers in entering the UK illegally between May and June 2014 and will be sentenced later this month.

“ We say these three are the facilitators in this organised crime, where they are using genuine British passport holders within the Sikh community. It’s a Sikh conspiracy and it’s occurring because it’s very difficult for the authorities at the border control to distinguish who’s who on the passports’” prosecutor Edward Aydin said.

The border staff failed to spot the difference in the passports shown by the Afghans, all of which had photos of Sikhs wearing their turbans.

Paying around 12,000 pounds per family to the fraudsters, around 30 Afghans are known to have successfully claimed asylum.

The Afghan families were handed genuine passports by a gang member in Paris, enabling them to get through airport security. The gang retrieved the passports once the Afghans entered the country and later reused them with new families.

Harmit Kapoor also admitted booking flights between June 8 and June 21, 2014, for the asylum seekers, while Chawla admitted hiring a vehicle to facilitate their entry into Britain when he drove to Paris.

In February 2011, Chawla had been jailed for a similar crime accompanied by four other men.

The French Authorities were alerted by Airline Staff who suspected something was wrong, leading to the immigration racket being busted.

Joginder Dawan, a 41 year old fourth suspect, pleaded not guilty to one conspiracy while pleading guilty to the charge of contributing in the offence by permitting the use of his passport for flight and travel booking. In both cases, not guilty verdicts were recorded in his favour and he was discharged.

-Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Afghanistan Elections Conclude, IEC Criticized For Mismanagement

The presidential vote, scheduled for July 20, is also under scrutiny because of the lack of serious reforms to prevent a repetition of previous fraud-marred Afghan elections.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to journalists after arriving to register as a candidate for the presidential election at the Independent Elections Commission, in Kabul, Jan. 20, 2019. (VOA)

The process of submitting nomination papers for the upcoming presidential vote in Afghanistan concluded Sunday, with President Ashraf Ghani and his ruling coalition partner Abdullah Abdullah among the candidates seeking the country’s top office.

Ghani and Abdullah, who was appointed chief executive in a deal mediated by the United States after the disputed 2014 election, filed their nomination papers just hours before the Independent Election Commission (IEC) closed the proceedings.

The election activity comes as an early morning suicide car bombing of a government convoy in eastern Afghan province of Logar killed at least eight security forces, underscoring serious security challenges facing the country in the wake of a raging Taliban insurgency.

The presidential vote, scheduled for July 20, is also under scrutiny because of the lack of serious reforms to prevent a repetition of previous fraud-marred Afghan elections.

IEC officials, however, dismiss concerns and insist their rescheduling of the polls from the original April 20 date has given them enough time to fix the problems and to lay the ground for a better organized vote.

“Our [candidates’] goal should be to work toward ensuring this election process results in a strong government and nation. Whatever consensus regarding any reforms is required must be achieved now to remove any doubts about the election outcome,” Ghani said in televised comments after formally registering his candidacy with IEC.

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb blast in Kabul, Jan. 15, 2018.(VOA)

The IEC was heavily criticized for failing to prevent mismanagement and alleged rigging in the October parliamentary election. The final results are still awaited, fueling traditional mistrust and suspicions among voters about the upcoming election.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former ethnic Pashtun warlord accused of war crimes and once listed as terrorist by the U.S., has also joined the presidential race.

Hekmatyar stopped his Hizb-i-Islami group from waging insurgent attacks against foreign forces and returned to Kabul from years of hiding in 2016 after signing a U.S.-backed peace deal with President Ghani’s government.

Hekmatyar’s fighters have been blamed for committing atrocities during the Afghan civil war that enabled the Taliban to capture most of Afghanistan in 1996.

Several former officials of the Ghani-led National Unity government are also among the contestants. They include Hanif Atmar, former national security adviser; Rahmatullah Nabil, ex-chief of the Afghan intelligence agency; Zalmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister who came third in the last presidential election; and Shaida Abdali, a former diplomat.

Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, center, shakes hands with his supporters after arriving to register as a candidate for the presidential election, in Kabul, Jan. 20, 2019.

Peace talks with Taliban

The United States, meanwhile, has intensified efforts to seek a politically negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old conflict with the Taliban, which control nearly half of the country and maintain battlefield pressure on U.S.-backed Afghan forces to capture more territory.

Chief American peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team spent several days in neighboring Pakistan, where authorities tried to arrange the next round of U.S.-Taliban talks.

Also Read:U.S. Determined To Address ‘Legitimate Concerns’ To Achieve Peace in Afghanistan

A U.S. Embassy statement announced Sunday said Khalilzad visited Islamabad from January 17-20 where he met with Pakistani civilian and military leaders. It said that “both sides reaffirmed their commitment to advance the Afghan peace process.”

Khalilzad highlighted that all countries in the region will benefit from peace in Afghanistan, the statement concluded, though it was not clear whether Pakistani efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table succeeded. (VOA)