Los Angeles — The arrest of five people on charges of smuggling illegal aliens into the United States may have broken up the so-called ‘‘Punja Sikhs here from the troubled Indian state of Punjab, officials said.

Two Immigration and Naturalization Service agents infiltrated the alleged alien smuggling ring a year ago, said INS spokesman John Belluardo.

“It was a major smuggling operation ranging from India all the way to Los Angeles,”’ he said.

Authorities arrested five of the six people named in a federal complaint Wednesday morning in

Los Angeles. They were held without bail pending arraignment Thursday, Buck said.

Investigators had not located the sixth person yet, he said. All were charged with conspiring to smuggle and smuggling illegal aliens.

Eight alleged illegal aliens also were taken into custody Wednesday, and authorities seized a pistol, he said.

Belluardo said aliens were smuggled by airplane from India into Europe at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 each. Using visitors’ visas, they were then flown to Mexico City and met by a member of the ring who transported them to Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, he said.

They would then cross into California, most settling in the Los Angeles area while others moved on to Sacramento and the East Coast, Belluardo said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Buck said he didn’t know how long the ring may have been operating.

A few of the aliens may have come from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but most were Sikhs from the Punjab, he said. The northwestern Indian state has been the scene of violence, including bloody clashes between Sikh separatists and Hindus and the Indian army’s invasion of the Sikhs’ Golden Temple at Amritsar last June.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985