No corporate rivalry behind Ambani chopper sabotage, say police (Second Lead)

May 4th, 2009 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, May 4 (IANS) Ruling out corporate rivalry behind the attempt to sabotage industrialist Anil Ambani’s helicopter, Mumbai police Monday claimed to have cracked the sensational case and arrested two employees of the firm that maintained the chopper.
But Air Works India Engineering Pvt Ltd. said it was not aware of the motives behind the “malicious act” of its staffers.

Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Rakesh Maria told a crowded news conference here Monday that investigations showed the incident was actually an outcome of a dispute between the workers and the management of the aircraft maintenance company.

Maria ruled out the Anil Ambani group allegation that corporate rivalry was behind the incident. “There was no corporate rivalry,” he said.

The police official also gave a clean chit to Bharat Borge, the Air Works employee who had found pebbles and mud in the chopper’s gear box, and whose body was found on the railway tracks last Tuesday.

“In fact, it was his (Borges’) alertness which helped highlight the case and saved Anil Ambani’s life,” Maria asserted. Ambani was scheduled to fly in the chopper the next morning.

The two Air Works employees, who were arrested just before midnight Sunday, have been identified as S. Palraj Thevar and Uday Warekar, working as technical helpers. They were presented before a metropolitan magistrate, who remanded them in custody till May 15.

Air Works was contracted to maintain the chopper under a contract with ADAG since 2006. However, following the incident, the contract was cancelled last Wednesday.

In a statement, Air Works said it has initiated separate legal proceedings against Thevar and Warekar.

“In a clear-cut malicious act, these individuals have tried to damage Air Works’ 58-year-long safety record. Such criminal activities cannot act as any justification by these employees as a reason of their disagreement against the management,” said the statement.

Detailing the probe, the police officer said the chopper was flown to the Air Works hangar April 22 evening and was taken up for servicing, maintenance and pre-flight preparations the next morning.

“On the morning of April 23, around 10 a.m., Thevar and Warekar were assigned the job of clearing the helicopter. At the time, taking advantage of the opportunity, Warekar planted seven small pebbles and some earth into the gear box,” Maria said.

The crime branch has lodged a fresh case under the Civil Aviation Act, 1992, which can attract life imprisonment with fine.

The stringent section deals with offences pertaining to illegally doing something to an aircraft in service which can damage or disrupt the aircraft on ground or in air, or endanger its safety.

Similar incidents have taken place at Air Works in the past, Maria said.

A brick was hurled at an aircraft parked outside the Air Works hangar Aug 27, 2008. Two months later, fire-crackers were exploded inside the hangar in the vicinity of some parked aircraft.

Then again, there were loud explosions in the main electrical supply room Jan 3. Security personnel discovered two-three cracker bombs which were set to blow off and a can of petrol to set off a fire, Maria said.

There was a similar explosion March 6 followed by a minor fire, and cracker bombs and a can of petrol were found in an aircraft.

“All the cases are being investigated by Santa Cruz Airport police,” Maria said.

Thevar and Warekar - working as helpers - were part of the 52-member non-technical staff whose entry to the airport has been stopped by Air Works.

“These two persons were a part of the team assigned to look after the works of the Ambani aircraft, so they could easily approach it. They did it taking advantage of an opportune moment last April 23,” Maria told IANS.

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