AIR INDIA INVESTIGATIVE TEAM PRESENTLY HAS SIX FULLTIME RCMP INVESTIGATORS AND AN ANALYST: 75 PER CENT CUT SINCE 2011

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‘A number of investigative initiatives that remain active and on-going,’ RCMP tells Asian Journal

 

BY RATTAN MALL

 

 

Right front door wreckage of Air India Flight 182 that was salvaged from the ocean.

 

THE RCMP are still doggedly pursuing the guilty in the Air India Flight 182 bombing, although fulltime investigators have been cut back by 75 per cent.
 
In March 2011, retiring RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass, who headed the Air India Task Force from 1995 to 2000, told Robert Matas of The Globe and Mail newspaper and other media that 22 to 26 officers were still working fulltime on the Air India case.
 
This week, BC RCMP Communication Services Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, Senior Media Relations Officer, told Asian Journal that six fulltime investigators and an analyst are still pursuing a number of leads.

 

 

Gary Bass Photo by Chandra Bodalia

 

Vermeulen said: “In June 2012, the transition began with the Air India Task Force becoming an investigative team under the E-Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (E-INSET) that consists of approximately 55 police investigators.”
 
He added: “The Air India team currently consists of six fulltime investigators along with one analyst.  The Air India team now has the ability to draw upon resources from E-INSET to assist in the Air India investigation as and when required. The investigative team is fully committed and continues to work with any and all agencies that can support our investigation.”
 
Verneulen said: “There are a number of investigative initiatives that remain active and on-going, but to comment further at this time would not be appropriate.”
 
He pointed out: “The bombing of Air India Flight 182 and [the bombing at] Narita airport in Japan are one of the largest, longest and most complex terrorist investigations the RCMP has ever undertaken. This terrorist act resulted in the murder of 331 victims and remains international in scope.”

 

 

Inderjit Singh Reyat Photo by Indira Prasht

 

THIS week marked the 29th anniversary of Operation Bluestar – the all-out attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, in 1984 by the Indian Army with commandos and tanks to kill Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Sikh militants who had taken over the complex.
 
And just over two weeks from now will be the 28th anniversary of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, off the coast of Ireland in which 329 people died and the Narita airport explosion in the luggage meant for another Air India plane in Japan on the same day in which two baggage handlers were killed.
 
Inderjit Singh Reyat was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1991 for the manslaughter of two baggage handlers at Narita Airport. And in 2003, he pled guilty to manslaughter in the bombing of Air India Flight 182. In January 2011, he was sentenced to nine years in jail for telling lies under oath in 2003 in the Air India trial. His testimony was part of a deal in which he pled guilty to the manslaughter charge.
 
In his 2003 testimony at the Air India trial (a recording of which was played by Crown during his perjury trial), Reyat said that Talwinder Singh Parmar [who is considered the mastermind of the Air India bombing plot and who was apparently murdered by Indian police in Punjab before he could be charged by the RCMP] asked him to make an explosive device in 1984 and that he agreed because he was very upset at the way the Indian government had treated Sikhs. He said he bought material for the device and claimed that Parmar did not tell him what it would be used for.

 

 

Ripudaman Singh Malik Photo by Indira Prahst

 
In 2005, Ripudaman Singh Malik of Vancouver and Ajaib Singh Bagri of Kamloops were acquitted in the Air India bombings.
 
But in July 2012, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Bruce Josephson, who also presided over the Air India bombing trial, ruled that “the acquittal of the applicant was just that; it was not a declaration of innocence” when Malik asked for reimbursement of more than $9.2 million for his legal fees in the Air India bombing trial. The judge added: “The media and public are free to read the judgment and come to their own conclusions.”

 

BACK in March 2011, Robert Matas of The Globe and Mail newspaper told me that  retiring RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass mentioned an interesting angle to him that the RCMP were working on – “that people who were afraid to speak over the period of years are in a different situation where the people they are afraid of die off, and it’s a bit of the police going around collecting deathbed repentance or deathbed statements to some extent … waiting for one person to die off and then another person will talk about it.”

 

 

Ajaib Singh Bagri

 

Bass also told Matas a slew of other interesting things at the time:
 
* Key RCMP investigators were not told for at least four months after the two explosions that CSIS had been wiretapping Parmar’s conversations. Neither did CSIS share their information or analysis with the RCMP although they had been following Parmar and even watched him test an explosive device.
 
* Bass contradicted the Air India federal inquiry’s findings, claiming that information that would have identified the suspects was not in the RCMP files until many months after the bombing.
 
* Police identified people of interest in India but they are now dead (Bass did not reveal any details).
 
* Bass revealed that although police at first accepted the conclusion of an inquiry in India that Parmar had been killed in a shootout, they later found out that he had been captured and tortured. It was only in 1997 that the RCMP discovered that Parmar allegedly made a confession, but Bass told Matas that the confession, which was made after torture, was unreliable.
 
* Bass also revealed that India did not attach much importance to Parmar’s statements and told Matas: “India had put Air India behind them, that essentially was what we were told.”
 
* Parmar identified Lakhbir Singh Brar, who had been a refuge in Canada and was later deported, as a central figure in the plot and that he was involved in the test blasts with Inderjit Singh Reyat. But investigators concluded that Brar was not involved in the bombings.
 
* Matas reported that Bass was less certain about Lal Singh, the person in whose name one of the plane tickets had been booked, saying that although he had been interviewed many times over the years, the police did not reach any definite conclusion. Matas wrote that Indian police said that Lal Singh admitted his complicity in the bombing.
 
* Bass told Matas that Hardial Singh Johal, who was arrested but released without being charged in the investigation, did not admit to his involvement when police spoke to him just before he died in 2002. It was alleged that he stored the bombs in a school basement and was seen at the airport on the day the luggage with the bombs were checked in.
 
* Bass has not changed his views about who the guilty are, telling Matas that the not-guilty verdict was “a very subjective analysis of credibility of witnesses.”
 
* Bass told Matas that there are a bunch of things in the investigation that are “not known, but are knowable” – police do not know who checked in the luggage or to whom Reyat handed the bomb parts.
 
* Bass said there were other things that were also being investigated, but did not mention them.