A US resident originally from India pleaded guilty to helping 14 Indians from Quebec illegally cross the Canada-US border.

Signs announcing a closed road, with the indications “Road closed” and “Dead end”, planted on land in front of a barrier blocking a road.

Last summer, 14 Indians used the area around this road, in southwestern Quebec, to illegally enter the United States.

Photo: Radio-United States / Romain Schué

The scene takes place last summer, in the middle of the night, on a rural American road, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border and the Quebec village of Hemmingford.

At the end of July, an American patrol officer spotted a suspicious vehicle taking a normally quiet road in Mooers Forks, especially at this time of day, a supposedly quiet area in northern New State. York.

Inside this black SUV, surprise: people are piled on top of each other, with wet clothes and backpacks.

In addition to the driver, 14 people get out of the car, which is supposed to accommodate a maximum of eight passengers. All, without exception, are Indian migrants, coming from Quebec, who have just crossed the border illegally, on foot, through the neighboring woods. None speak English.

The driver, Abhishek Bhandari, a US resident of Indian origin, eventually pleaded guilty a few days ago in a New York state court to playing a role in the illegal arrival of migrants and having transported them to the United States, in exchange for financial gain.

He now faces up to 10 years in prison and his sentence will be announced in August.

A scenario worthy of a spy novel

While the number of illegal crossings, linked in particular to Indians, has reached a record level in this sector, this arrest illustrates the organization of these criminal networks, which are increasingly active between Canada and the United States.

The astonishing story of Abhishek Bhandari, the driver of the vehicle last summer, is a good example. Revealed by American court documents, it is even worthy of a spy scenario.

Before collecting these 14 Indians, Mr. Bhandari lived in Florida. A month before this clandestine crossing, he swears he received a curious package containing a flip phone and $1,000 in cash. A few hours later, the device rings. On the other end of the line, an unknown man asks him to take his family to New York.

Abhishek Bhandari accepts and takes a flight from Tampa to New Jersey. On the orders of the mysterious interlocutor, he then went to the parking lot of a Walmart in Plattsburgh.

It’s 10 p.m. A Jeep Wagoneer waits for him, unlocked, with the keys on the dashboard and a new phone sitting inside.

The same man, according to Bhandari’s testimony, directed him towards the border, about forty kilometers from Plattsburgh, and encouraged him to gently drive around the area until he can hear people in the woods. The collective arrest by the American police followed, a few minutes later.

Who is behind this network? However, no details concerning the structure of the group behind these crossings appear in the American court documents.

A record for interceptions

This type of interceptions have been increasing for months. While Mexican criminal networks, sometimes with links to cartels, have specialized in clandestine crossings, particularly in southeastern Quebec, Indian nationals cross more to the west of Lake Champlain.

people passing by, at all hours of the night”,”text”:”There are sometimes groups of 10, 12 people passing by, at all hours of the night”}}”>There are sometimes groups of 10, 12 people passing by, at all hours of the nighttestifies Claude DeBellefeuille, Bloc member for Beauharnois, a riding in Montérégie, stuck on the border.

Many citizens in my constituency witness these passages. It’s disrupting their lives and it’s only been increasing in recent weeksadds the federal elected official, while demanding more surveillance police at the border.

The phenomenon is now known and documented. I don’t understand why there isn’t more monitoring and control.

A quote from Claude DeBellefeuille, Bloc Québécois MP

The figures also confirm this impression.

In March, American authorities arrested 1,109 migrants in this border sector including northern New York State and Vermont, including 408 Indians. A double record.

These Indian crossings, in the woods, have greatly increased since the drowning of eight migrants, of Indian and Romanian origin, in the waters of the St. Lawrence River, on the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne, in March 2023.

This type of crossing, by boat, was also a specialty of Indian networks, with the complicity of local smugglers, owners of these makeshift boats.

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