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From smoking on the flight to fighting with cops: Who is Balwant “Bobby” Kataria, the ‘influencer’ who has been arrested by NIA for human trafficking

The FIR revealed that Balwant Kataria and other human traffickers had kidnapped and detained more than 150 Indians after luring the victims with job offers in foreign countries

On 27th May, the Gurugram police in a joint operation with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) apprehended social media ‘influencer’ Balwant Kataria, popularly known as Bobby Kataria, for his alleged involvement in human trafficking, fraud and other offences. On 28th May, a city court sent him to a three-day police remand. As per reports, the Gurugram Police and the NIA jointly raided his residence in Gurugram’s Sector 109 and the YouTuber was arrested from his office in Conscient-One mall which is also situated in the same sector.

During the raids, the officials also recovered several suspicious documents, four mobile phones and a huge stash of cash (Rs 20 lakh). He was taken into custody after the Gurugram Police submitted a formal complaint against him. According to the authorities, he has been associated with a major human trafficking network since the previous year and could have connections to a global gang. Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) crime Varun Dahiya, “All aspects of the investigation are being looked into by the police.”

The First Information Report revealed that he and other human traffickers had kidnapped and detained more than 150 Indians. Their passports and other identification were taken away and they were pressured into engaging in cybercrime activities for a Chinese enterprise. The victims also suffered from serious abuse, according to the FIR.

The 38-year-old social media celebrity reportedly posted job openings in other countries on his Instagram profile, according to a complaint lodged by Arun Kumar of Gopalganj, Uttar Pradesh, and Manish Tomar of Dhaulapur, Hapur. After being swayed by the advertisement, they got in touch with Bobby Kataria’s team and were invited to his office in Gurugram’s sector 109 where they were promised jobs in the United Arab Emirates and had to pay a registration fee of Rs 2,000. They further deposited over Rs 4 lakh into his accounts in three instalments in persuasion of their aspirations.

Arun Kumar shared, “I met Bobby Kataria on 1st February in his office and he gave me assurance of getting a job in the UAE after taking Rs 2,000 as a registration charge. I then transferred Rs 1.5 lakh to his account and got a ticket for Vientiane (the capital of Laos). Similarly, my friend Manish Tomar was also assured of getting a job in Singapore. Kataria charged Rs 2.59 lakh from Tomar and he too got a ticket to Vientiane and boarded the flight on 28th March 28.”

He added that they were met by someone called Abhi at the airport in Vientiane, who identified himself as Bobby Kataria’s friend after which a Pakistani man dropped them off at a hotel. Arun Kumar unveiled, “The next day, we were taken to an anonymous Chinese company, where we were thrashed and our passports were taken away. We were forced to commit cyber fraud targeting the US (United States) citizens. Around 150 Indians, including women, had been brought there through human trafficking and were being held hostage. On the third day, we managed to escape and approached the Indian Embassy. After returning, we asked Kataria to return our money, but he refused.”

Afterwards, they went to the authorities and an FIR was registered against Bobby Kataria and others under sections 323 (causing hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (criminal intimidation), 420 (cheating), 364 (abduction), 370 (buying and disposing of any person as a slave), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and section 10/24 of the Immigration Act.”

On 27th May, the National Investigation Agency and local police collaborated to raid many sites in six states and Union Territories as part of a human trafficking case including forced cybercrimes. The search resulted in the arrest of five individuals named Manish Hingu of Vadodara, Pahlad Singh of Gopalganj, Nabialam Rai of southwest Delhi and Sartaj Singh of Chandigarh were nabbed along with Bobby Kataria who was caught following a tip-off of the NIA.

Who is Bobby Kataria

Bobby Kataria whose real name is Balwant Singh Kataria, is a native of the Basai village in Haryana. He is a bodybuilder, social media personality, and businessman from Gurugram. He is the founder of the Gurgaon-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Yuva Ekta Foundation. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is a powerlifter who has set state and all-time records and has a bachelor’s degree in law. He has more than 3.5 lakh Instagram followers, however, his YouTube and Instagram profiles are presently disabled.

Bobby Kataria’s defunct Instagram account.

According to Bobby Kataria, he can design individualized diet and exercise regimens for people based on their individual fitness or competitive objectives. He reportedly not only coaches people in fitness but also makes promotional appearances in a variety of fields, including business, social services, events and product lines. According to his profile, he also speaks to organizations and interest groups and makes guest appearances on radio and television. He claims to actively support a number of public programs and facilities.

He began a consultancy business in February 2023 to provide employment to persons seeking opportunities abroad. He was spotted in multiple Facebook videos promoting alleged Canada visas he obtained for his clients and talking about a work opportunity in Russia.

Bobby Kataria’s controversial past

Notably, Bobby Kataria has already made headlines in the past for all the wrong reasons as he found himself in soup for breaking the law on many occasions including smoking a cigarette on an aeroplane and consuming alcohol in the middle of the road. A Dehradun court issued a non-bailable warrant against him for public intoxication and traffic obstruction.

Bobby Kataria landed himself in significant legal difficulties in 2022 after a video surfaced of him idly relaxing, hogging a whole row of seats, lighting a cigarette and taking a few puffs inside an aeroplane as a Haryanvi song can be heard in the background. He claimed that the clip showed a dummy plane and it was filmed during the shooting. However, according to the initial internal investigation of the airline, the incident happened inside the plane during boarding, as clearly displayed in the footage he posted.

Another video featured a smug Bobby Kataria setting a table and chair in the midst of a busy road in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand came to light in which could be witnessed drinking alcohol. He also ate a snack and held a water bottle as alcohol was visibly placed in front of him while “Apun ki dadagiri” (My bullying), “Aim kaim kaisi shame, name kaa yeh game hai (what shame, it is all about the name) and “Road apne baap ki” (My father owns the road) plays in the background and the caption declared, “It’s time to enjoy on the roads.”

Bobby Kataria turned himself in for the case in front of a Uttarakhand court in Dehradun in October 2022. Just one week before the surrender, he was given bail for smoking inside a passenger aircraft. Last week, a Dehradun court issued an arrest warrant for him without the possibility of bond since he did not show up for his scheduled police appearance.

A formal complaint was filed against Bobby Kataria in 2022 for physically assaulting a woman and making derogatory remarks about her on social media as well as threatening to kill her. The complainant, who lives in Ashok Vihar, Phase 3, Gurugram, stated in the First Information Report that the accused and his friends attended a championship arranged in Gurugram’s Sector 5 and forcibly halted the event. Additionally, they awarded medals and cash to their own team members after declaring them the winners.

He is notorious for spreading gun and gang culture on social media and producing problematic content, particularly on Instagram where he posts videos about fitness among other things for his wide audience.

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