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Priest to face human trafficking charges

Bishops' Council account was used to launder money

  • ucanews.com reporter, Thiruvananthapuram
  • India
  • January 21, 2013
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A Catholic priest accused of human trafficking surrendered to police in Kerala on Saturday along with three other men, police said. 

Father Jaison Kollannur, former secretary of the Youth Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council surrendered with Raju Thomas, Titu Thomas and Jomon Thomas, said Amose Mammen, assistant commissioner of the police Crime Records Bureau in Kochi.

All four were released on bail, Mammen told ucanews.com.

Police registered a human trafficking case against Father Kollannur and his associates in December. All four have been at large since then, although they received anticipatory bail from Kerala High Court, which directed them to surrender on or before January 19.

The bail condition required the accused to surrender their passports to the court and report to the investigation officer every Friday. Each accused was also ordered to give personal bonds and sureties of 25,000 rupees (US$465).

According to police, a tip from the US Embassy in Chennai led to the investigation of a human trafficking network in the state. The four are accused of trying to send 42 unskilled youths to an international seminar in the US. The candidates, who are carpenters and drivers, were presented as scholars in the field of education.

On November 19 police arrested the head of Shadwell, an educational management and career guidance company in Kochi, and its human resource manager.

“We found that Shadwell faked certificates with the motive of smuggling unskilled laborers to the US,” Mammen said.

During interrogation, Shadwell head Tom Baby confessed they were working in league with Youth Commission Secretary Father Kollannur and other officials from the Church.

Shadwell charged 100,000 rupees for every person successfully smuggled to the US and the priest received 50,000 rupees as commission for recruiting and assisting the process, police said. They used the Youth Commission bank account to make transactions appear credible.  

“Our investigations found that the accused had earlier successfully trafficked unskilled persons to Spain and Australia. The priest was planning to take another group of youths to Brazil this year,” Mammen said.

Father Kollannur organized youth guidance seminars in several parts of Kerala as part of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement and used the Church organization to run the human trafficking network. The priest told the youths that they would get good employment once they reached the US.

“We have made a thorough investigation and recorded the statements of 35 victims. We could not record the statements of seven victims who had gone abroad for employment,” said the police official.

The priest was dismissed from his Youth Commission job shortly after police registered the case in December. 

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