(Reuters) – A man accused of plotting and being paid to smuggle Indian nationals from Canada into the United States pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege Simranjit “Shally” Singh, a 40-year-old Indian who is resident in Ontario, was involved in a conspiracy to smuggle Indian nationals over the border from Cornwall Island and the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation in 2020 and 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York said.
Singh was indicted in 2022 and was extradited to the U.S. last week. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Cornwall Island is located on the St. Lawrence River. The Akwesasne reserve sits on the island, with U.S. land just across the river. Local police monitor the river full-time to try to prevent the smuggling of people and goods.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to a deal in March aimed at stopping asylum seekers coming to Canada through unofficial border crossings, a move critics said could mean refugees and migrants will take more risks when crossing.