Popular Punjabi singer Daler Mehndi has been sentenced to two years in prison for human trafficking, according to a BBC report. The BBC reported that in 2003, Mehndi and six others were accused of taking large amounts of money from people and making false promises of taking them to the U.S. and Canada to look for jobs.
“I have been granted bail. We will appeal in higher court,” the singer said. The Court of Judicial Magistrate Nidhi Saini, held Daler Mehndi guilty under section 420 (Cheating) and 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code (Conspiracy). Mehndi was granted bail after he furnished a bail bond and said he would challenge the verdict.
The singer apparently made these people a part of his performing troupe so that when they went on tour, they could be “illegally” dropped off to get jobs in the North American region. According to an NDTV report, in 1998 and 1999, Mehndi and his brother Shamsher Singh had allegedly taken two troupes to the U.S. during which 10 people were supposedly “dropped off” illegally in San Francisco and New Jersey.
Though police had seized documents in 2006, including a list of the victims who had paid the alleged “passage money” to the brothers, after raiding the offices of Mehndi at Connaught Place in New Delhi, they claimed that he was innocent.
However, the court had upheld that the singer be prosecuted as there was “sufficient evidence against him on the judicial file and scope for further investigation” and soon after the police registered a case against Mehndi and Singh, 35 more complaints came in, “alleging that the two brothers had taken ‘passage money’ from them to help them migrate to the U.S. ‘illegally’ but had failed to do so,” according to an NDTV report.
Mehndi was convicted on Friday, March 16 in the Patiala state of Punjab, but was soon released on bail and told the Associated Press that he is innocent and that his brother was the main accuser, who died last year.
Mehndi rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s with his energetic, Punjabi songs including the hit numbers “Tunak Tunak Tun,” “Bolo Ta Ra Ra” and “Saade Naal Rahoge Toh” and has lent his voice for Bollywood film songs as well.