Indian authorities claim that Fenil Patel, along with another individual, assisted in transporting Jagdish Patel and his family to the border.
A man accused by police in India of helping smuggle a family of four through Canada just before they froze to death on the Manitoba border with the United States has been found living freely in a suburb outside Toronto, as revealed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate investigation.
Indian authorities claim that Fenil Patel, along with another individual, assisted in transporting Jagdish Patel and his family to the border amid a severe snowstorm and -35°C temperatures two years ago. Tragically, the Patel family succumbed to exposure on January 19, 2022, attempting an illegal crossing into Minnesota near Emerson, Manitoba.
Facing charges in Gujarat, India, including culpable homicide and human smuggling, Fenil Patel’s alleged involvement in the Patel family’s demise was announced in January 2023. Despite reports of him possibly residing in various locations, including the U.S., Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, The Fifth Estate discovered him leading a quiet life in a bedroom community outside Toronto.
Fenil Patel chose not to respond to interview attempts, and when confronted by The Fifth Estate crew, he walked inside without providing any answers. His daily routine, from driving children to school to weekend family outings, seems ordinary, concealing the serious charges he faces overseas.
The allegations suggest Fenil Patel drove migrants from Toronto to British Columbia and then to Manitoba, facilitating their meeting with the Patel family. Together, they were driven to a remote border area near Emerson during a severe winter storm on the night of January 18, 2022.
Chaitanya Mandlik, deputy commissioner of the Gujarat state police, confirmed Fenil Patel’s identity and role, describing him as an “agent in Canada” who drove them to the border area. Despite seeking assistance from the RCMP to locate and arrest Fenil Patel in Canada for extradition to India, it remains unclear if an official request has been made.
The RCMP in Manitoba, leading the investigation into the Patel family’s death, has not clarified why Fenil Patel, accused of human smuggling and reportedly one of the last people to see the Patel family alive, is living freely in Canada. The RCMP, acknowledging public interest, stated that the investigation is progressing but provided no specific details on Fenil Patel’s case.
Deepak Ahluwalia, an immigration lawyer, suggests several reasons why Fenil Patel may not be in custody, including a lack of evidence or ongoing information collection by Indian authorities. Ahluwalia draws attention to potential delays in extradition, citing the case of Jassi Sidhu, a woman murdered in Punjab in 2000.
The story of Fenil Patel’s discovery by The Fifth Estate involves extensive research, late-night calls, and surveillance, piecing together details about the migrant group’s route and Fenil Patel’s alleged role. Indian police believe the Patel family, after arriving in Toronto, was shuttled between locations in the Greater Toronto Area before being transported to a Manitoba motel.
Varshil Dhobi, an acquaintance of the Patels, played a role in the journey, according to statements to Indian police. Fenil Patel, along with another man, drove the Patel family and other migrants to a remote area near the Manitoba border, providing them with cellphones for guidance. U.S. Border Patrol later arrested individuals involved in attempting the illegal crossing.
Despite the evidence, Fenil Patel’s name first surfaced when Indian police announced arrests in January 2023. Sources reveal detailed information provided by Gujarat state investigators to the RCMP. The Fifth Estate obtained an Indian police report outlining charges against Fenil Patel and Varshil Dhobi’s witness account.
The report describes the accused smugglers as driven by greed, aware of the risks, yet choosing to send migrants into dangerous weather. The investigation connected addresses and phone numbers to Fenil Patel, confirming his presence in Canada.
In March 2023, another Indian family drowned attempting to cross from Canada to the United States, indicating ongoing challenges with smugglers. Ahluwalia emphasizes Varshil Dhobi’s witness statement as crucial evidence for the RCMP to take action against Fenil Patel, considering the tragic fate of the Patel family on their journey to the United States.