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Monday, 24 April, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
India arms case reopened
bleach
Briton Peter Bleach was sentenced to life imprisonment
By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

Indian federal police have ordered a fresh investigation into an unsolved arms drop case in West Bengal, implicating the former Bengladeshi government.

They say they now believe the weapons were being sent to rebels in north-east India, with the possible support of the Bangladesh government led by Begum Khaleda Zia.

A British arms dealer, Peter Bleach, and five Latvian crew members were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Calcutta court two months ago for their role in the arms drop.

Drama over Bengal

In December 1995, a plane dropped a huge quantity of weapons over some villages in Purulia, West Bengal and then flew on to Thailand.

plane
An Antonov cargo plane was used for the drop
Four days later, the aircraft re-entered Indian air space, only to be forced to land at Bombay airport.

The man believed to be behind the events, Danish national Niels Christian Nielsen, mysteriously vanished from the airport.

But Mr Bleach and his Latvian crew members were arrested and imprisoned.

But the mystery about who these large quantities of sophisticated weapons were meant for continues to defy explanation.

Bangladeshi role

India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) initially said they were meant for an Hindu militant group, the Ananda Marg (Blissful Path), but they failed to prove this allegation in court.

Begum Khaleda Zia
India believes Begum Zia's government was sympathetic to rebels
CBI sources now say they have some interesting leads that indicate that the weapons were being carried to Bangladesh for trans-shipment to rebels in north-east India.

They claim to have found that the end-users certificate for these weapons were provided by a senior military official who worked in the secretariat of former Bangladesh prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia.

The CBI says that the boxes containing the weapons, which were found at Purulia, also had markings for Rajendrapur Cantonment in Bangladesh.

The agency has now initiated a fresh investigation to prove the possible involvement of Mrs Begum Zia's administration in the arms drop, as her government, India believes, was sympathetic to the rebels from north-east India.

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See also:

02 Feb 00 | South Asia
Briton gets life in India arms case
17 Jan 00 | South Asia
India arms trial verdict postponed
15 Feb 99 | South Asia
Arrests sought in Indian arms case
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