Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 11:56 UK

Britons 'hiring Indian assassins'

Pistol barrel
Killers can be hired for as little as 500, campaigners say

British Asians are hiring contract killers to carry out up to 100 murders in India every year, according to campaigners in rural Punjab state.

BBC Asian Network understands targets such as family or business associates are lured to the sub-continent, where assassins can be hired for just £500.

Punjab Police deny corruption allows the British Asians to evade justice.

Scotland Yard says it is aware of the problem. The Foreign Office says six British nationals are missing in India.

A member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, British-born Jassi Khangura, has investigated the trend which he believes claims the lives of between 50 and 100 overseas Indians every year.

They beat her up. They dumped her in the ditch and made it look like an accident
Alleged victims' mother

He says most of the killings are carried out in Punjab where, he claims, police corruption and bureaucratic or legal loopholes mean the perpetrators are seldom tried.

The Punjab Police force says the figures are exaggerated and deny the force is riddled with corruption.

Some victims' families are now turning to authorities in the UK for assistance.

Metropolitan Police detectives say they do not know how many people are killed in this way.

One family told the BBC they suspected a relative, who died on holiday with her husband, was killed by foul play.

"Her husband wanted to re-marry. He told her to leave him - she said, 'I'll die but I won't let him go'," her mother revealed.

She was one of the first to arrive on the scene.

"They beat her up. They dumped her in the ditch and made it look like an accident. They wanted to show it like an accident. There was no blood, no car and no tyre marks."

Another case was that of British woman Surjit Athwal.

The 26-year-old mother of two disappeared in Punjab in 1998.

Two years ago, a British court found her mother-in-law and husband guilty of arranging her murder.

They had hired criminals in India to kill her. She was strangled and her body dumped in a river.

Full details will be broadcast as part of the Passport to Murder programme on BBC Asian Network at 1800 BST on Monday.



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