AHMEDABAD: A “multi-millionaire” jeweller, arrested for allegedly keeping a note in a plane’s washroom about hijackers and a bomb, told interrogators that he did so hoping Jet Airways would close operations and his girlfriend, who works in its Delhi office, comes back to Mumbai.
Birju Kishore Salla, 37, a resident of Mumbai, was on Monday detained by the crime branch following the emergency landing made by the Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways plane at the Ahmedabad airport after the pilot was alerted about the alleged note which was found in the plane’s washroom by a cabin crew.
He was on Tuesday arrested under the stringent Anti-Hijacking Act, which came into force in July replacing the 1982 vintage law.
“We have arrested him under the Anti-Hijacking Act sections. This is the first arrest under the Act after it came into force,” Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) J K Bhatt told reporters here.
Under the provisions of the Act, an accused could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment till death and his movable and immovable properties can be confiscated, police said.
Salla, a native of Dedan village under Khambha taluka in Amreli district and settled in Mumbai since the last many years, was formally arrested today, police said.
“Salla was detained from the plane which made an emergency landing at the city airport yesterday morning. Later, he confessed that he had prepared that threat letter using his laptop and printer. He used Google translator service to convert the English text into Urdu,” he said.
The note, allegedly placed by Salla, stated that there were hijackers and a bomb in the cargo area, officials earlier said.
It was a printed note in Urdu and English, asking that the plane be flown straight to POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). It ended with the words, “Allah is Great”.
The reference to POK made investigators suspicious because Pakistan-based terrorists call the area ‘Azad Kashmir’, an official said.
According to Bhatt, Salla is a multi-millionaire jeweller having his office in the Zaveri Bazar area of Mumbai and a flat in a posh locality of the metropolis.
He said Salla confessed to the crime branch sleuths that he planted the note with an intention to close down Jet Airways operations so that his girlfriend, working in the Delhi office of the airline, loses her job and shifts to Mumbai.
“Salla, who is married and has two children, claimed that his girlfriend works with Jet Airways in Delhi. Since she was not ready to change her job, he came up with this wild idea of putting a threat letter, wishing that it would shut the airline’s operations and his girlfriend would be left with no other option than to come to Mumbai,” Bhatt said.
“Salla, a frequent flier between Mumbai and Delhi, was in the habit of harassing the airline. Earlier, he allegedly put a cockroach in the meal served to him on one of the flights,” he said.
The police have seized the laptop, printer and some pen drives used by Salla, Bhatt said.
Though the police have not found any criminal record of Salla, the crime branch is probing the case from all angles, he said.
“One of our teams has already reached Mumbai with Salla to get more information about him. We are investigating if he is in contact with any anti-social groups,” Bhatt said.
The official said they were in touch with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which may take over the case.
“Since it’s a serious offence, we are keeping the NIA in the loop. If the Centre wants, we may hand over the case to the NIA. As of now, the crime branch is probing the case,” the official said.
He said Salla’s female friend will also be questioned.
According to the police, Salla has been arrested under sections 3(1), 3(2)(A) and 4(B) of the Anti-Hijacking Act.
Section 3(1) of the Act pertains to “whoever unlawfully and intentionally seizes or exercise control of an aircraft in service by force or threat, thereof, or by coercion or by any other form of intimidation or by any technological means he commits the office of hijacking.”
Section 3(2)(A) is invoked against a person who “makes a threat to commit such offence or unlawfully and intentionally causes any person to receive such threat under circumstance which indicate that the threat is credible.”
As per section 4(B), “whoever commits such an offence shall be punished with imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and with fine.”