A plane en route to Nicaragua with over 300 Indian passengers has been halted in France due to suspicions of “human trafficking,” as disclosed by authorities on Friday.
The flight, originating from the United Arab Emirates, was apprehended following an anonymous tip. The Paris public prosecutor’s office reported that the aircraft, operated by the Romanian company Legend Airlines, was detained on Thursday and was carrying passengers deemed “likely to be victims of human trafficking.”
The A340, which remained grounded at Vatry airport after its Thursday landing, had 303 Indian nationals on board, potentially former workers in the UAE, according to Flightradar. Sources suggest that these passengers may have intended to journey to Central America with the aim of illicitly entering the United States or Canada.
Upon landing in France, the passengers were initially confined to the aircraft but were later allowed to disembark and were provided individual beds within the terminal building. The entire airport was sealed off by law enforcement. Vatry airport, situated 150 kilometers east of Paris, primarily serves budget airlines.
Human trafficking offenses in France can incur a maximum penalty of up to 20 years. A judicial inquiry into the circumstances and motives behind the trip has been initiated, as confirmed by local officials in the eastern Marne region on Friday.
A specialized unit focusing on organized crime is probing suspicions of human trafficking and has detained two individuals for questioning, as announced by the Paris public prosecution office. The tip leading to this investigation was provided by an anonymous informant.
The flight, managed by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines, had taken off from Dubai and made a stop at the Vatry airport on Thursday afternoon for technical reasons when law enforcement intervened, according to a statement from the Marne prefect’s office.
As of now, Legend Airlines has not responded to messages and calls. The Vatry airport’s reception hall was adapted into a waiting area with individual beds to ensure optimal reception conditions for the passengers, as stated by the prefect’s office. The Indian foreign ministry has not yet responded to requests for comments.