Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

6 convicted in Purulia case

CALCUTTA, Jan 31 (UNI) — A city court today convicted British arms dealer Peter James Gifron Von Kalkstein Bleach and five Latvians in the Purulia armsdrop case but deferred the sentence till February 2.

The court, however, acquitted Ananda Margi Vinoy Singh as the investigating agency, the CBI, “failed to produce any evidence” against him before the court.

Earlier Bleach, along with Latvians Alexandre Klichine, Oleg Gaidash, Igor Moskovitin, Igor Timmerman, and Antimenko Eugueni, besides Vinoy Singh, were produced in a crowded courtroom.

Delivering the long-awaited judgement that was deferred on January 17 last, Judge P.K. Biswas observed that Bleach and the Latvians’ pilots were found guilty of offences under Section 121A and Section 25 (1)-A/25(1)-B (FG) of the IPC.

They were also found guilty of offences under Section 9B (2) of the Explosives Act, 1984, Section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, Sections 10, 11, and 11A of the Aircraft Act, 1934, the judge held.

The accused were, however, not found guilty of offences under Section-121/122 of the IPC.

The judge maintained that Vinoy Singh was, however, not found guilty of offences under Sections 121, 121A of the IPC and was, therefore, acquitted.

Briton Peter Bleach (centre), an ex-pilot, leaves the courtroom in Calcutta on Monday. Bleach and five Latvian associates were convicted on sedition charges, arising from an air-drop of a large cache of weapons six years ago. — AFP photoBriton Peter Bleach (centre), an ex-pilot, leaves the courtroom in Calcutta on Monday. Bleach and five Latvian associates were convicted on sedition charges, arising from an air-drop of a large cache of weapons six years ago.
— AFP photo

“Vinoy Singh is set at liberty at once if he is not wanted in any other case”, the judge held.

On February 2 next, the convicts would again be produced before the court for hearing on point of sentences, the judge observed.

After the judgement was pronounced, Bleach said it was not the appropriate time to comment. “I am convicted, not sentenced,” he said. The five Latvians, however, broke down on hearing the judgement.

Flight Engineer I. Timmerman of the AN-26 aircraft that dropped a huge consignment of arms and ammunition in seven Purulia villages in West Bengal on December 17, 1995, said, “I cannot think of it. What is our fault ?”

Bleach along with the Latvians were arrested from Sahara International Airport in Mumbai immediately after the arms dropping incident. Later, Vinoy Singh was arrested from one of the villages.

The CBI investigated the incident and filed a charge sheet against the six foreign nationals and Vinoy Singh on March 20, 1996.

The trial of the case began on March 11, 1998, and the court examined 140 witnesses, including some inspectors of the new Scotland Yard, during the proceedings that ended on January 7, 2000. Bleach had argued in person.

A huge cache of arms and ammunition was dropped in Jhalda, Ghatanga, Belamu, Maramu and Beradi villages from a Russian AN-26 aircraft on the night of December 17, 1995. The arms dropped included, 241 AK-47/56 assault rifles, 79 anti-tank grenades, 62 hand grenades, 10 rocket launchers, 11 nine mm pistols, besides 3,853 rounds of nine mm ammunition.

After dropping the arms, the aircraft went to Phuket in Thailand and returned to India again to land at the Sahar Airport in Mumbai where the aircraft crew arrested.

The West Bengal CID was initially entrusted with the probe into the armsdrop, but the CBI took over the investigation towards the end of 1995.

From March 11, 1998, trial for the case began at the City Civil and Sessions Court. During its course, the accused moved the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court for quashing charges against them, but both courts turned down their plea.

They also moved the Calcutta High Court pleading that the venue be shifted from the City Civil and Sessions Court, but that plea, too, was rejected.

Altogether 144 witnesses were examined during the trial.

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