Indian authorities have started the process to extradite two Canadians to face charges after a family of four froze to death in southern Manitoba while trying to cross into the United States, a police officer says.
Chaitanya Mandlik, deputy commissioner of police for Ahmedabad’s crime branch in the state of Gujarat, said authorities want Vancouver residents Fenil Patel and Bitta Singh, who also goes by Bittu Paji, to face charges in India.
“We need to interview them and we need to get some more information,” he told The Canadian Press.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Wednesday that extradition requests are “confidential state-to-state communications.”
“We cannot confirm or deny the existence of a potential request until made public by the courts,” Ian McLeod said in an email.
Canadian authorities found the bodies of a couple and their two children metres from the United States border on Jan. 19, 2022.
Jagdish Patel, 39, his wife, Vaishaliben, 37, their daughter, Vihangi, 11, and son, Dharmik, 3, were found frozen to death near Emerson, Man.
Investigators have said they believe the deaths were linked to a human smuggling operation.
Police in India arrested Dashrath Chaudhary, Yogesh Patel and Bhavesh Patel earlier this year and charged them with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempting culpable homicide, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy, which means they could face life in prison.
Mandlik said Fenil Patel and Singh would face similar charges.
“They’re very serious charges,” he said.
It’s alleged Chaudhary, Yogesh Patel and Bhavesh Patel arranged for the family to travel to Canada on a tourist visa. Fenil Patel and Singh allegedly took over planning and logistical support to help them cross into the United States, Mandlik said.
Two RCMP officers visited Gujarat in March to gather information on the alleged human smuggling network, he said.
Mandlik said he and his team plan to visit Canada before the end of the year to further investigate.
“We have asked for a few things from [the RCMP]. We are still waiting for that information,” Mandlik said.
“We have asked for the IP addresses from where the [tourist] application was filled and a few details about Fenil Patel and Bitta Singh.”
Once the Indian authorities get that information, supplemental charges will be filed, he said. It could take up to the end of the summer or early fall to get that information.
“We are confident the Canadian authorities will give us that information,” he said. “We will make sure that they get deported.”
RCMP in Manitoba would not comment on investigations by other police agencies in other countries.
“The RCMP continues to work closely with its international law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad to advance the investigations into the deaths of the Patel family,” spokesperson Robert Cyrenne said in an email.
Communications for RCMP headquarters would not comment on the investigation.