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Jet Airways air hostess held for smuggling Rs 3.2 crore in US dollars part of hawala ring

Monitor News Bureau

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New Delhi:Jet Airways air hostess, who was caught smuggling $480,200 (valued at ?3.25 crore) wrapped in aluminium foil, had reportedly smuggled foreign currency on at least seven previous occasions before she was caught late night on board a Delhi-Hong Kong flight.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), who have arrested Deveshi Kulshreshtha (25) along with her agent Amit Malhotra (39), said the duo are part of a bigger international hawala syndicate.

A city court sent Kulshreshtha and Malhotra to two-day judicial custody and directed the DRI to produce them before the concerned metropolitan magistrate on January 11.

 

Sources said that Malhotra met Kulshreshtha in August last year when he was returning from Hong Kong by a Jet Airways flights. “Malhotra had a chat with her while she was serving the meal to him. They exchanged contact details and later met to discuss the plan. She made four-five domestic trips before going to Hong Kong. Before going there, she used to meet the supplier and collect the currency from him,” said a DRI official on condition of anonymity.
Investigators said she used to get 1% of the total money she laundered as commission.

“In August last year, she travelled for the first time with $50,000. Thereafter, she travelled with $1,00,000 and this was her eighth trip with the Hawala money. Another person used to come to the hotel in Hong Kong to collect the money. Malhotra, who runs a tour and travel business in east Delhi’s Vivek Vihar, has also been arrested,” said the DRI official.

Official said that Amit too had travelled to Hong Kong on multiple occasions on the same money laundering business. The DRI has raided Malhotra’s house in east Delhi and recovered ?3.3 lakh in Indian currency and $2,500 along with other evidence.

The DRI said that some businessmen and colleagues of the airline crew were also on their radar and will be interrogated soon.

“Malhotra knew several businessmen and promised to convert their black money into white. Now, we have to work on the leads given by them and more arrests are likely to happen soon,” the officer added.

Investigators also said that crew member was well trained in hiding money and used to wrap the currency bundles in aluminum foil, which the scanner at the airport was not able to detect easily.

A Jet Airways spokesperson had confirmed the incident. “Based on the investigations and inputs from law enforcement agencies, the airline will take further action,” the spokesperson said in a statement. There was no fresh statement from the airlines.


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US Congress committee urges India to end communication blackout in Kashmir

Press Trust of India

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India’s communication blackout is having a “devastating impact” on the lives and welfare of the people of Kashmir, a powerful U.S. Congressional Committee has said, urging New Delhi to lift its more than two-month long restrictions in the Valley.

Restrictions were first imposed across Kashmir on August 5 when the Centre announced its decision to revoke all provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Normal life has remained affected in Kashmir for over two months as main markets continue to be shut and public transport off the roads.

 

Mobile services remain suspended in Kashmir except in Handwara and Kupwara areas in the north, while Internet services — across all platforms continued to be snapped in the Valley since August 5.

“India’s communication blackout in Kashmir is having a devastating impact on the lives and welfare of everyday Kashmiris,” House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a tweet on Monday.

“Its time for India to lift these restrictions and afford Kashmiris the same rights and privileges as any other Indian citizen,” it said.

The House committee comes nearly a month after Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal, along with 13 other US Congressmen, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.

The Asia-Pacific and Non-Proliferation Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on human rights in Kashmir and other parts of South Asia on October 22.

India has categorically told the international community that its move to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution was an internal matter and has also advised Pakistan to accept the reality.

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Pakistan appoints Munir Akram as UN envoy

Press Trust of India

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n a major reshuffle of diplomats, Pakistan on Monday removed Maleeha Lodhi and appointed Munir Akram as the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

The development came merely a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan returned from the US, where he raised the Kashmir issue in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly last week.

“Ambassador Munir Akram has been appointed as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York, in place of Dr Maleeha Lodhi,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

 

However, it gave no reason for her removal.

In his speech that went on for about 50 minutes, far exceeding the 15-minute limit for UN speeches during the General Debate, Khan devoted half of his address to the Kashmir issue, warning that if there’s face-off between two nuclear-armed neighbours, the consequences would be far beyond their borders.

His war rhetoric was in sharp contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s peace message from the same podium few minutes earlier in which he said India is a country, that has “given the world, not war, but Buddha’s message of peace.”

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, but New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was its “internal matter”.

The Foreign Office statement said Akram would be stationed at the UN’s New York headquarters.

He is an experienced hand who served as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN from 2002 to 2008.

He was dismissed by the then president Asif Ali Zardari over his disagreement in presenting the case of assassination of Benazir Bhutto to the United Nations.

Akram had also courted controversy after he was accused of domestic violence by his partner, Marijana Mihic, in December 2002 while serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN. The case was reportedly settled out of the court and he was not charged with the crime due to his diplomatic immunity.

Akram specialises in multilateral diplomacy with considerable experience over the years at the UN’s New York and Geneva chapters. He studied at the Karachi University and graduated with a Masters degree in Political Science and a Bachelors in Law, the statement said.

Among other transfers approved by the prime minister include appointment of Khalil Ahmad Hashmi, presently serving as Director General (UN) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in Geneva.

Besides, Muhammad Aejaz, Additional Secretary at MoFA, has been appointed as Hungary Ambassador; Syed Sajjad Haider, serving as Charge d’ Affaires in Pyongyang, as Kuwait Ambassador; Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, serving as Consul General in Toronto, as Dhaka High Commissioner; Ahsan KK Wagan, serving as Charge d’ Affaires in Niamey, as Ambassador of Oman; and Major General Muhammad Saad Khattak as Sri Lankan High Commissioner.

Other appointments include Abdul Hamid as Consul General in Toronto and Abrar Hussain Hashmi as Consul General in Houston.

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US lawmakers urge PM Modi to lift communications blackout in Kashmir

Press Trust of India

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Indian-American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal along with 13 other US Congressmen have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.

A statement, addressed to Prime Minister Modi, was issued jointly by Congressmen Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr, Judy Chu, Pramila Jayapal, Carolyn Maloney, Gerald Connolly, Ilhan Omar, Barbara Lee, Al Green, Zoe Lofgren, Andy Levin, Mike Levin, James P. McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, and Katie Porter.

“On behalf of thousands of families across the country who have been unable to contact family in Jammu and Kashmir, we are urging Prime Minister Modi to lift the communications blackout and address the ongoing humanitarian concerns,” the lawmakers said in the joint statement.

 

Restrictions were imposed when New Delhi had on August 5 scrapped the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated in into Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Asserting that the abrogation of Article 370 of its Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was its “internal matter”, India has defended imposition of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley on the grounds that they were put to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists.

“India is an important US partner and the world’s largest democracy. As such, we hope that the Government of India will demonstrate leadership and lift these restrictions. The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve the same rights as any other citizen of India,” the statement said.

The joint statement, the lawmakers said, is in response to the imposition of media blackout starting August 5, leaving millions in Jammu and Kashmir without access to mobile phones or the internet while many others have been detained.

“As a result, family members in the United States and elsewhere have had no ability to contact loved ones in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to concerns about their welfare,” said the statement, the lead in which was taken by Congressman Cisneros, who is a Member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and an Executive Board Member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

The restrictions in Kashmir have been lifted in phases from many parts of the Valley as the situation improved with passage of time.

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