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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 18:27 GMT
India airline gun security breach
By Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC News, Delhi

Go Air aircraft
Go Air is one of India's newest airlines
Aviation chiefs in India have launched an inquiry after a prominent industrialist checked in a pistol and bullets on an international flight.

The businessman is a grandson of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The Indian national carrier, Air India, has removed at least one official as a result of the security breach.

The official was alleged to have been present at the time the lapse occurred, and airport security apparatus failed to detect the firearm and bullets.

Seized

Officials say that the well-known industrialist, Nusli Wadia, was found to be flying from Mumbai (Bombay) to Dubai last week with a revolver and 30 live bullets.

Nusli Wadia
Mr Wadia is wealthy and well connected

They said that Mr Wadia checked in the weapon and bullets without making the mandatory disclosures to relevant security and immigration authorities.

Mr Wadia, the chairman of the private Go Air airline, was flying on 13 January on an Air India flight.

The firearm and bullets were only detected when his bag went through the screening machine at the security counter at Dubai airport.

The businessman was questioned by security and immigration officials at Dubai, and a statement from him was recorded.

The pistol and bullets were seized by airport officials at Dubai.

Security alert

The question is how the security apparatus at Mumbai airport failed to detect the weapon and ammunition in his luggage despite stringent security checks and procedures.

Most Indians believe that they know the answer.

For important, influential and powerful Indians - and no-one disputes that Mr Wadia falls into that category - security checks at airports are cursory.

That is the case even though a high-security alert has been in place at all Indian airports in the run-up to the country's republic day on 26 January.

The alert follows a warning from intelligence agencies that airports could be the target of separatist and terrorist groups.

Air India plane
Airline officials are concerned over the security breach

When contacted by the BBC, Mr Wadia said he was not aware that he was carrying a gun and bullets in his checked-in baggage.

He said that his baggage was packed by his servant who put them in his luggage by mistake.

"It's no more than a storm in a tea-cup. I was neither detained nor questioned. Only my statement was taken by officials at the Dubai airport and my pistol and bullets were kept by them throughout the time I was there."

He said the incident was "a mistake" and that he was able to show his license for the weapon and ammunition before the Dubai authorities.




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