Bollywood singer Daler Mehndi sentenced to jail after human trafficking conviction

A popular Indian pop singer was convicted of human trafficking and cheating Friday by a court that found he took money to pretend people were in his performance troupe so they could get jobs in North America.

Singer has large fan following among Indian diaspora in U.S., Canada and U.K.

Popular Indian folk singer Daler Mehndi, seen in Amsterdam in 2005, has been sentenced by an Indian court to two years in prison on charges of cheating and human trafficking. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

A popular Indian pop singer was convicted of human trafficking and cheating Friday by a court that found he took money to pretend people were in his performance troupe so they could get jobs in North America.

Daler Mehndi,50, claims he is innocent and vowed, on Twitter, to appeal the verdict. 

The court in the northern city of Patiala sentenced him to two years in prison, but freed him on bail while he challenges his conviction in an appeals court.

Prosecutors said Mehndi and his brother took "passage money" from Indians they offered to disguise as performers in his troupe during the late 1990s. The job-seekers could then stay in the United States and Canada to find work.

The cheating conviction alleges the brothers took money from some Indians and never took them abroad. They filed police complaints in 2003.

Mehndi told reporters on Friday that his brother was the main accused in the case and he died last year.

The Press Trust of India reported that the Mehndi brothers took two dance troupes to the United States in 1998 and 1999 and allegedly dropped off 13 members illegally.

Mehndi shot into fame in the 1990s with Punjabi-language songs and energetic dancing and has lent his voice for Bollywood film songs.

He has a large fan following among Indian migrants in the United States, Canada and Britain.​

With files from Reuters