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Air India Suspects Found Not Guilty 2005/2022 Update




Bagri and Malik found not guilty

March 16, 2005

VANCOUVER (CP) -- Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik both found not guilty in bombing of Air India Flight 182.

About 100 people began lining up outside the B.C. Supreme Court building under tight security and in a steady rain trying to get seats to hear Justice Ian Josephson's verdict.

In the end, the fate of Malik, 58, hung on the stories of a small handful of witnesses who testified against him in the trial by judge alone. The judge said those witnesses were not credible.

Josephson was still to pass judgment on Ajaib Singh Bagri, 55, who along with Malik had faced charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the downing of Flight 182. They were also charged in an explosion at Japan's Narita airport that killed two baggage handlers on the same day.

There was almost no hard evidence linking Malik, a high-profile Vancouver millionaire, or Bagri, a sawmill worker from Kamloops, B.C., to the bombings.

Josephson found Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri not guilty on all eight charges each man faced, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Malik, 58, and Bagri, 55, had also been charged in an explosion at Japan's Narita airport that killed two baggage handlers on the same day. They were found not guilty of those charges as well.

It has been widely speculated that an appeal of the verdict will be launched in a higher court and family members have called for a public inquiry into the handling of the case.

The list of key witnesses included two former female confidantes of the accused and a convicted murderer.

The destruction of evidence by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, meanwhile, was singled out by the judge for criticism as "unacceptable negligence.''

The two men were accused of blowing up a plane bound for Mumbai from Vancouver via Toronto, Montreal and London in a plot inspired by religious revenge after the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism's holiest shrine, in June 1984.

A third man, Inderjit Singh Reyat, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his part in the downing of Flight 182, a Boeing 747 operated by India's state-run airline.

Reyat, an electrician from Duncan, B.C., was handed another five-year jail term on top of the 10 years he was serving on manslaughter and explosives charges related to the Narita bombing.

The Crown argued that after the attack on the Golden Temple, Vancouver's large ex-pat Sikh community was bubbling with rage, which those at the heart of the plot exploited.

Bagri and Malik, prosecutors argued, obsessed over terrorist plots to create a Sikh homeland in India. The two belonged to groups, since outlawed in Canada, that blamed the Indian government for mistreating Sikhs.

The suspected mastermind of the plot was Talwinder Singh Parmar, prosecutors told the trial, which was held in a specially built multimillion-dollar courtroom with protective glass separating the accused and lawyers from the public gallery.

Like other alleged co-conspirators and insiders, Parmar is dead. He was killed in a shootout with Indian police in 1992.

Reyat said Parmar asked him to get components to build a bomb that would be detonated in India, but he was never told they would be used to bring down a plane.

At the end of the 233-day trial, the Crown and defence agreed that the credibility of a woman whom Malik confided in was pivotal in the case against him.

She stepped out of her life of hiding in the witness protection program to tell the court Malik confessed to organizing a plan to smuggle two bombs on Vancouver flights that would be transferred to two Air India jets.

The plan, she said, was for the explosives, hidden in suitcases, to detonate at the same time while the planes soared on opposite sides of the world.

But things didn't go according to plan, according to the woman.

One bomb blew up on schedule, shattering Flight 182 as it flew off the coast of Ireland.

The second device detonated prematurely, killing the two baggage workers in Tokyo. The bomb _ which went off 54 minutes before Flight 182 fell from the sky _ was supposed to be transferred in luggage from a Canadian Airlines flight from Vancouver to another Air India jet destined for Delhi via Bangkok.

Although the woman said she and Malik fell in love, there was no evidence of a physical affair between them. The confidante is among 10 protected witnesses who cannot be identified.

The court heard that Malik, a businessman in the strict Sikh community, poured his heart out to her in April 1986.

She said that Malik told her: "We had Air India crash. Nobody, I mean nobody, can do anything. It is all for Sikhism.''

In the spring of 1997, Malik went further, she said, and confessed that he was the one who had purchased two airline tickets to fly the bombs in suitcases out of Vancouver.

Malik's defence team dismissed the woman as a disgruntled former employee of the businessman who had been fired.

"She had bitterness, anger and hatefulness toward Malik and others,'' defence lawyer David Crossin told the court, adding that without her evidence, ``the case against Malik vanishes.''

The same 20-year-old memories of second-hand confessions swirled around Bagri, Malik's alleged logistics man.

Bagri was heavily involved in the movement to create Khalistan, the independent homeland some Sikhs wanted, and called for followers of the religion to take up arms during speeches.

Bagri was described by prosecutor Bob Wright as "a militant Sikh terrorist.'' The court watched videotapes of Bagri rallying his people with violent slogans.

"Until we kill 50,000 Hindus we will not rest,'' he preached at a massive gathering of Sikhs in Madison Square Garden in New York in July 1984.

In September 1985, Bagri allegedly admitted to a man in the United States that he was responsible for the bombings.

The man was a mole for the FBI and was later paid about $460,000 by the RCMP to testify at the trial. The cash was paid out after the man, known only as John, had told American police about the confession.

Bagri's lawyers tried to discredit the informant as a criminal who was looking for money, noting that he spent time in jail after his brother was killed in a machete attack in India and that he lied to immigration officials to get into the U.S.

The Crown said the brother was killed when John stepped in to the middle of a family brawl and, in protecting himself, he caused the fatal stab wound.

The death of Parmar meant an already cold trail in the investigation into the bombing would sink into the deep freeze.

Court heard that CSIS had been following Parmar, Malik and Bagri but weren't able to come up with anything.

Important notes and tips were destroyed instead of being shared with the RCMP in a clash of personalities between officers and supervisors in the two security organizations. Information on suspects was further buried in turf wars.

Bagri's lawyer Michael Code was critical of CSIS, Canada's spy agency, when it emerged that wiretap and interview tapes against his client had been erased. While some translations of the telephone conversations survived, Code described them as cryptic, inconsistent and unreliable.

The erased interview tape was of a woman who told a CSIS agent that Bagri tried to borrow her car to take bomb-laden baggage to Vancouver's airport.

In court, the woman complained of memory loss around Bagri's actions and what she told the CSIS agent.

Justice Josephson later allowed the agent's notes of his conversations with the woman to be used as evidence against Bagri.

Only 132 bodies from Flight 182 were recovered by military and merchant vessels that worked on the recovery effort.

© Canadian Press 2005

Wow, I don't know about the rest of you, but this was a huge surprise to me.
Me too - you'd think that the most expensive and extensive investigation in RCMP history would be pretty solid.

Look to the appeal.
From what was being reported in the media, it sounded like the entire investigation was bungled, but thats just based on news reports.  I hope there is a public inquiry into how CSIS and the RCMP were unable to work together effectively on this case.

As for an appeal, I don't know.  Is there a credible reason for the crown to appeal?
Sheerin said:
I hope there is a public inquiry into how CSIS and the RCMP were unable to work together effectively on this case.

How much will that cost us taxpayers?

The cost of this trial was well over $140 million. 

If only I could get onto one of those "Inquiries" and make some of those Mega Bucks.....look at all the Lawyers working on the Gomery Inquiry......Mega Bucks.
Too bad the government doesnt set the wages of lawyers like they do in national health.
They built the bloody court specifically for the trial.
Expensive and extensive as Infanteer said!

Will the crown appeal? Anyone?
The balls in their court.
It is the "Criminal Justice Industry."  It has to recycle freaks and murderers back out on the street in order to keep all of those judges and lawyers in SUVs and hookers.  Rozcko should not have been loose.  He should have still been in jail.  Does the Law Society of Soviet Kanuckistan care about those four Mounties?  Nope. To them it was an "industrial accident."

Appeal: wait until the written judgement is out- there will be a better opportunity to examine the reasons for decision. This was a very complicated case, with a lot of evidence for the court to weigh. When a public source for the decision becomes available I will post it. Don't beat up the crown or the judge until we see the full extent of the decision.

And, here is the written decision: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Jdb-txt/SC/05/03/2005BCSC0350.htm

It is a very long read. I will pull the relevant reasons for decision over the next few days.

I certainly hope it gets overturned on appeal. This whole outcome make me sick.
Bagri and Malik found not guilty

Robert Blake acquitted in wife's murder

Anyone else confused?

Just wait until Wako Jack is found not guilty, and Scott Peterson gets a last minute pardon from Arnold at 23:59 before sentence is carried out.

I am kinda disgusted and embarrassed by the whole Air India fiasco. If the RCMP and CSIS are found to have messed things up, that would be the icing on the cake. And with the amount of money thrown to the wind on the trial, and the building of the court, I wonder if any was left over for the public inquire. One thing I have found interesting is that guy Bagri, was to have spoken at a rally in New york some years back. At this rally, he was to have stated , that they will not rest until they kill over 100'000 Indians. Anyway, just another slow news day in Canada


Pass the bucket.
If the evidence didn't support guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the outcome is what I would expect.

However, if the case was weak, I would not have expected it to proceed to trial.  In my mind, the interesting question is whether it was genuinely believed the prosecution could win with the evidence at hand.  Can you imagine if all that was done - and the money expended - merely for the sake of being seen to do something?
My initial comments are that the trial judge appears to have omitted some of the evidence presented at trial. Also, the legal analysis with respect to weighing the relevance, credibility and probative value is actually quite shallow. The findings are made, but directing the analysis to the findings on the evidence is difficult and confusing in this judgement.

If the Crown concludes that certain influential evidence was omitted, misconstrued or given short shrift by the trial judge, then they are virtually obligated to appeal. The analysis of the evidence in a 600+ page judgement appears without any recognizable perspective, but the size of the judgment is also cloaking some hidden nuggets of analysis. I am puzzled and somewhat concerned by this. It may be that supplementary and clearer reasons for judgement are in the offing. Perhaps the trial judge was suffering a bit of writers fatigue while working towards a tight deadline.

2 points raised on the media coverage of this judgement:
  • First, there was a woman who claims that the investigation and outcome would have been different had the victims been "white Anglo saxons" - a remark that is pure horseshit and an insult to the investigators and the Crown - the team had at least 4 QC on board. The chances of an incompetent prosecution and investigation are between zero and nil.
  • Second, an elderly gentleman suggested that this decision and this case was far too much for one judge to manage and render a decision- I agree. Perhaps it is time to have 3 or 5 panel judges in trials of first instance that are of this scale and importance.

The Crown has appealed cases on worse findings than this and have overcome findings such as those found in this judgement.

IMHO, cost is going to be the single most influential factor for the Crown to consider in mounting an appeal.

If this judgement stands without appeal, or is lost on appeal, the transformation of Canada into a safe legal jurisdiction for terrorists will be complete.
Who would, if they accepted the crown's arguments, order a new trial which will probably have only one judge and no jury.  Of course the defandants could ask for a trial by Jury but I kinda doubt they will...

What a waste of time and money.  They build a whole new building, just for this one case, then aquit those being charged based in omitted evidence, and a general "bungling" of the investigation?  Ugh!

Not too sound too drastic, but where are the Boondock Saints when you need em'?
To quote the judge...
...acts which cry out for justice.   Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sometimes I think law isn't always about "getting the conviction" or placing the blame(especially in a free and democratic society) so much as it's about ensuring that justice is served.
Justice as a whole concept isn't just about seeing someone hang for a crime, it's also about ensuring that the accused aren't being railroaded, and if the judge had any doubts (especially in a criminal case) about the crowns case then he made the right call.

Like it or not the accused do have the right to a fair trial and if convicted they should be convicted on evidence and proof that leaves no doubt not because of 20 years of monetary waste, a new building and bungled investigation.

Just to clarify, they didn't build a whole new building, just a room...albeit a very expensive room ($7 million IIRC). The room has been used since the trial, and will be used in the future for high security/sensitive cases.

I think the bigger beef is how the RCMP and CSIS shat the bed in the investigation...erasing wire tap evidence, breaking procedures, etc.....also, the fact the case hinged on 2 people who the judge said were untruthful, unreliable, and not believable should have been known to the Crown prior to going to trial.
Che said:
Like it or not the accused do have the right to a fair trial and if convicted they should be convicted on evidence and proof that leaves no doubt not because of 20 years of monetary waste, a new building and bungled investigation.

Hear hear.
In our rush to celebrate the fact that the standard of proof was not achieved in this case due to the quality of the evidence relied upon by the Crown, lets not forget that other evidence was excluded due to the nature or manner  in which it was obtained, and thus did not form any part of the trial judges reasons for judgement. It is also noteworthy that this was ostensibly an international investigation, yet little [if any] incriminating evidence from those sources appear on the judgement. 

I understand the bulk of the costs in this trial were related to the Crown prosecution and related concerns arising therefrom, and not the actual defence tendered. That being said, it was also one of the most expensive defences put on in the history country, but possibly not the most expensive. IIRC, there was a criminal action in Edmonton that never went to trial where the defence team may have billed more than in this case- of course, there were no convictions there either.

Look for the Ipperwash Inquiry to be within the top 5 in terms of cost. :)