"it is up to all of us to work together to protect people"
An Australian Indian man has been accused of trafficking his wife to India and stealing more than $60,000 from her and her family members.
Partap Singh, aged 28, of Darwin, allegedly tricked his wife into leaving Australia to fly to India in February 2019, under the pretence of organising visas to travel to the United States.
Police allege that he then provided false information in divorce proceedings in January 2020.
Singh is also accused of being physically abusive to his wife and using coercion and threats to access her wages, bank accounts and gain money from her family.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) began an investigation in March 2020, following a report from a member of the public.
Singh was charged with trafficking in persons in September 2020. Meanwhile, his wife has since returned to Australia and is receiving support from the AFP and Red Cross.
Detective Superintendent Paula Hudson said:
“Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices are happening here in Australia and it is up to all of us to work together to protect people who are vulnerable to these exploitative crime types.
“This is a reminder that forcing someone to leave Australia using coercion, threats or deception is an offence under our laws, and Commonwealth human trafficking offences and penalties apply.”
The maximum penalty is 12 years in prison.
However, his lawyers have said the allegations are false and part of an attempt by the women to remain in Australia.
In addition, Singh appeared via video link in the Darwin Local Court to apply for bail.
During Singh’s bail hearing, lawyers said they would be fighting the charges.
Barrister Lyma Nguyen said the woman’s credibility and the veracity of her claims were called into question by documents from separate proceedings.
Ms Nguyen explained to the court that Mr Singh’s wife was “dependent on [Mr Singh]” for her Australian visa and had made the claims in order to remain in the country.
Judge Greg Cavanagh asked: “You’re saying it’s a weak Crown case?”
Ms Nguyen replied: “A very weak Crown case.”
Ms Nguyen argued for bail to be granted to the Australian Indian man. The prosecution did not oppose the request as long as a condition of electronic monitoring was imposed.
However, Judge Cavanagh asked for a bail report and adjourned the case until October 9, 2020.
Judge Cavanagh said: “The allegations reveal this man may well be capable of organising himself to flee the jurisdiction and I’m concerned about him doing that.
“I am prepared to consider releasing him on bail on strict conditions, including electronic monitoring.”
A spokesperson for the AFP said further charges of providing false documents on a non-citizen had been laid against Mr Singh since his arrest.