Bollywood singer Daler Mehndi has been handed a two-year prison sentence for smuggling jobseekers from India into the US 20 years ago. Mehndi reportedly made the people disguise themselves as part of his singing troupe.
Bollywood pop star Daler Mehndi was found guilty by an Indian court on Friday of trafficking people into the United States during a tour in the late 1990s.
Mehndi and his brother were accused of smuggling at least 10 people from India into the US in 1998 and 1999 by disguising them as part of a singing troupe. The jobseekers subsequently stayed in the US and Canada illegally and attempted to find work.
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Police initially filed charges in 2003 after a number of people came forward alleging the brothers took money from them but never took them abroad.
The court in the northern Indian city of Patiala sentenced the pop star to two years in prison, but released him on bail while he challenges the conviction in an appeals court.
Mehndi maintained his innocence throughout the yearslong trial and insisted on Friday that his brother, who died last year, was the main culprit in the case. The singer took to Twitter after the verdict, posting: "This saddens me but I have complete faith in God that truth will come out soon."
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Mehndi shot to stardom in India in the 1990s and has gone on to lend his voice to several Bollywood film songs in his native language, Punjabi. He enjoys a large fan following among the Indian diaspora in the United States, Canada and UK.
dm/kms (AP, Reuters)