Police in India have arrested two men in connection with the deaths of four people near the US-Canada border in January 2022.
The bodies, including that of a three-year-old child, were found lying together frozen in a field in Canada’s Manitoba, 12m away from the US border.
Authorities in Gujarat state, where the family was from, said the arrested men were “illegal immigration” agents.
Police are also trying to arrest two agents based in the US and Canada.
The family – Jagdish Patel, 39, Vaishaliben, 37, their daughter, Vihangi, 11 and son, Dharmik, 3 – were from Gujarat’s Dingucha village, where many locals aspired to move abroad. The news of their tragic deaths – they walked hours in -35C temperatures – made headlines around the world.
The Patels were among a group of 11 people from Gujarat who were trying to enter the US. The other seven people in the group were detained by US authorities after they crossed the border.
“The city crime branch has registered an offence in a case wherein the accused (agents) had forced 11 people to walk in the snow in a bid to get them illegally cross the US-Canada border, causing the death of four members of a family,” Chaitanya Mandlik, a senior police official in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, told reporters on Monday.
The Canadian Press, a news agency, reported that the arrested men have been accused of “acting as immigration agents, supplying the family members paperwork and helping them get to the US”.
The charges against them include human trafficking, criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
“The victims were taken to Toronto in Canada and later to Vancouver. The agents then dumped them at Winnipeg in Manitoba province leaving them to cross over to the US on their own,” Indian news agency PTI quoted Mr Mandlik as saying.
Manitoba police told The Canadian Press that there was “no evidence to suggest the Patel family travelled to Vancouver”.
The Canadian police added that they were working with “international law enforcement partners to advance the investigation into the deaths”.