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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 19:06 GMT
Police question Punjabi pop star
Indian pop star Daler Mehndi has been questioned by police in north India's Punjab state over his alleged involvement in a human trafficking racket.

Daler Mehndi
Mr Mehndi says he is innocent

Mr Mehndi said he had co-operated fully with the police and had even sung them his bhangra songs, inspired by the traditional dance music of rural Punjab.

Police officials told the BBC that Mr Mehndi had not answered all their questions and would be interrogated further.

Earlier in the day, Mr Mehndi's car was pelted with stones by a crowd angered by police reports that he had taken large sums of money after promising to smuggle people abroad disguised as members of his dance troupe.

Mr Mehndi told reporters outside the court that he wanted India's federal investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, to look into the charges against him.

Allegations

Mr Mehndi was given interim bail last week after an earlier arrest warrant against him.

Protesters jostle Mehndi's car as he arrives for police questioning
Hundreds of people had gathered outside the police station
The case came to light when one man said he had been defrauded of $25,000, before being asked for $10,000 more, police say.

According to police, that triggered more than 30 similar allegations.

They say several people have already been spirited to the United States and Canada, and claim to have recovered passports from Mr Mehndi's home as evidence.

Mr Mehndi's brother, Shamsher Singh, is already under arrest in connection with the same case.

Both have protested their innocence.

Daler Mehndi is often credited with bringing bhangra into the mainstream, by mixing it with modern Western forms like hip-hop, reggae and rock.

The BBC's Asit Jolly says the people trafficking business in Punjab is estimated to be worth up to $100 million.

Many traffickers organise foreign visits for would-be migrants by passing them off as religious, sporting or cultural delegations.

Detection is often difficult, as individuals who successfully settle abroad have little reason to betray the system that brought them there.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Charles Haviland
"Angry crowds barracking the king of Punjabi pop"



SEE ALSO:
Arrest warrant for Indian pop star
15 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Police raid Indian singer's property
15 Oct 03  |  South Asia


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