In a significant development, French authorities have detained a charter flight en route to Nicaragua carrying 303 Indian passengers. The move comes as part of an ongoing judicial investigation into the trip's conditions and purposes, launched by local officials in the eastern Marne region.
The Paris public prosecution office revealed that a specialized unit dealing with organized crime is actively investigating suspicions of human trafficking. Two individuals have been arrested for questioning in connection with the case, following a tip-off from an anonymous informant.
The flight, operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines, had originated from Dubai and made a technical stopover at the small Vatry airport on Thursday afternoon. It was during this stopover that police intervention took place, according to a statement from the Marne prefect's office.
"The reception hall at Vatry airport was transformed into a waiting area with individual beds to provide passengers with the best possible reception conditions," noted the prefect's office.
As per information from the Paris prosecutors, the aircraft was detained on Thursday, December 21, following the anonymous tip-off. French media outlets, including BFM TV and France 3, reported that authorities are investigating the case over suspicions of human trafficking. The Paris public prosecutor's office, speaking to AFP, stated that the aircraft was carrying passengers "likely to be victims of human trafficking."
The Romanian charter company's flight had taken off from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and landed at the Vatry airport for a technical stopover when police intervention occurred, as outlined by the Marne prefect's office in an emailed statement.
"The reception hall at Vatry airport was transformed into a waiting area with individual beds to provide passengers with the best possible reception conditions," it added, confirming the initiation of a judicial investigation into the incident. The prosecutors revealed that the investigation has been taken over by the national anti-organized crime unit JUNALCO.
The prefecture in the northeastern department of Marne specified that the A340 aircraft, operated by Romanian company Legend Airlines, "remained grounded on the tarmac at Vatry airport following its landing." It was further highlighted that the plane's refueling was due, with 303 Indian nationals on board.
In response to the incident, the Indian Embassy in France released a statement saying, "French authorities informed us of a plane w/ 303 people, mostly of Indian origin, from Dubai to Nicaragua detained on a technical halt at a French airport. Embassy team has reached & obtained consular access. We are investigating the situation, also ensuring the well-being of passengers."