Costliest in Canadian history,
estimated at about $130 million
Complete text of the judgement
Vancouver, March 16, 2005:
On March 16, 2005, a B.C.Supreme Court judge
acquitted Ripudaman Singh Malik
and Ajaib Singh Bagri on eight charges related to the bombing
of Air India Flight 182 on June 22, 1985. It was Canada's
worst case of mass murder 329 people were killed.
Two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita Airport died in another
The investigation and prosecution of the accused
has been the costliest in Canadian history, estimated at
about $130 million.
It all started almost 20 years ago.
June 22, 1985. Airline agent Jeanne Bakermans
checks in two pieces of luggage at Vancouver International
Airport that will change the course of history.
Hours later, the first suitcase explodes inside
the baggage terminal at Tokyo's Narita Airport while being
transferred to an Air India flight. Two baggage handlers
are killed. Exactly 55 minutes later, the other bag, a dark-brown
hard-sided Samsonite suitcase, explodes in the forward cargo
hold of Air India Flight 182 as it approaches the coast
Some passengers actually survive the 747's
fall from 31,000 feet only to drown in the frigid waters
of the Atlantic.
Three hundred and twenty-nine people are killed.
Eighty-two of them are children. Most of the people aboard
Air India Flight 182 are Canadian citizens.
Anant Anantaraman lost his wife and two daughters
in the Air India tragedy. Both his little girls, he says,
were very talented violinists. For years after the crash
Anant found it impossible to listen to music. Each June
he marks the anniversary of their death ... and each June
he hopes the nation will remember this was not a foreign
tragedy ... most of the victims were Canadians.
"I would like to see Canadians understand
that this is not a local tragedy, it's not a tragedy that
happened to me and a few people. I want them to understand
it's a national tragedy, which has never been sort of resolved."
Mourners gather on the coast of Ireland to pay their respects
to Air India victims.
Anant gave up on the promises of Canadian police to bring
those responsible to justice. In 1998, he said, the RCMP
told him that charges were imminent.
Nothing happened publicly in the two years
after that. But the investigation picked up steam behind
the scenes. Crown prosecutors were brought on board to begin
reviewing the 15 years worth of evidence gathered by police.
Soon a team of 14 prosecutors and 20 police officers was
at work on the case full time.
As the investigation headed into the home
stretch, police left nothing to chance. They refused to
publicly discuss either their theory or possible suspects
in the case. Their caution could have stemmed from the fact
there was a widespread belief that the investigation
the longest, most complicated and expensive in Canadian
history had been botched from the very beginning.
That's because Canadian authorities were on
to the suspects in this case long before the crime was ever
Sikh militants tailed
In early 1985, Rajiv Gandhi prime minister
of India at the time was getting ready to visit North
America. India asked Canada and the United States to keep
close tabs on Sikh militants who might pose a security threat.
Many Sikhs around the world were furious over the Indian
government's 1984 assault on the Golden Temple at Amritsar,
Sikhism's holiest shrine. Brian Mulroney Canada's
prime minister at the time agreed to India's request.
Talwinder Singh Parmar
Security officials placed a British Columbia man named Talwinder
Singh Parmar under around-the-clock surveillance. Parmar
was the leader of the militant Babbar Khalsa sect, a group
committed to the violent establishment of Khalistan, an
independent Sikh homeland, in the Indian state of Punjab.
Agents followed Parmar's every move and tapped his phones.
Three weeks before the Air India bombing,
agents followed Parmar and another man, Inderjit Singh Reyat,
into the woods on Vancouver Island. There was a loud bang.
But the agents thought little of it. Later, most of Parmar's
taped telephone conversations were erased before anyone
ever listened to them.
Two days before the bombings, police say a
man of East Indian descent went to the Canadian Pacific
Airlines ticket office in downtown Vancouver. He paid cash
for two tickets. Both were registered under the last name
"Singh." One ticket was booked to go to Narita
Airport in Tokyo and then on to India. The other ticket
was booked from Vancouver to connect with Air India Flight
182 out of Toronto.
Police believe that man was working with Parmar
and a group of others. But in one of the biggest gaffes
of the case, there was no surveillance on Parmar the day
police believe the bombs were delivered to Vancouver airport.
In the aftermath of the bombings, the pressure
was on to lay charges fast.
Within a few months, RCMP officers raided
the homes of a half-dozen prominent Sikhs in British Columbia.
Charges were laid against two men: Talwinder Singh Parmar
and Inderjit Singh Reyat, the mechanic Parmar had visited
on Vancouver Island. They were charged with minor weapons
offences, but the police left no doubt as to why these suspects
were being charged. They told a news conference that the
raids and arrests were made as part of the investigation
into the Narita Airport blast and the downing of Air India
The police, however, had acted prematurely.
The charges against Parmar were dropped. Reyat was fined
$2,000 and released. In exchange for that little piece of
justice, the police had shown their hand to their key suspects
in the case.
Reyat refuses to co-operate
For the next 15 years, the Air India investigation
languished. The most police were able to manage was the
1991 conviction of Inderjit Singh Reyat in the Narita bombing
case. Police presented evidence linking components of the
bomb remains found in Tokyo with items Reyat had purchased
in the preceding weeks. Among them, a Sanyo stereo tuner
that police believe housed the Narita bomb.
Inderjit Singh Reyat
Reyat served 10 years for manslaughter in the deaths of
the two baggage handlers at the Tokyo airport. He insisted
he was innocent.
"I never deny buying some items,"
Reyat told CBC News. "I bought the tuner, right, and
gave it to someone else. I don't know what happened after
that. But I did not make the bomb, or know of anybody who
asked me to make a bomb."
Reyat himself was able to provide one of the
most interesting glimpses inside the police investigation:
police had always hoped to lay conspiracy charges against
everyone involved in the Air India bombing. The best way
to do that is with the co-operation of one of the conspirators.
Reyat said he was offered $1 million for his
testimony. That's the amount of the reward police have offered
for information leading to convictions in the case.
In October 2000, charges were laid against
Sikh cleric Ajaib Singh Bagri and millionaire businessman
Ripudaman Singh Malik. Bagri, from Kamloops, B.C., and Malik,
from Vancouver, were charged with murder, attempted murder
Then on June 4, 2001, the British government
agreed to allow Canadian authorities to charge Inderjit
Singh Reyat in connection with the bombing. As a British
citizen already extradited to Canada for his trial on the
Narita charges, Britain had to agree before these further
charges could go ahead.
After the British courts approved a waiver
of extradition rights, the RCMP formally arrested Reyat
on seven new charges including, murder, attempted murder,
conspiracy in the Air India bombing, and the explosion at
Tokyo's Narita Airport.
The trial and its problems
The trial faced one setback after another.
The RCMP's key suspect Talwinder Singh Parmar
died in 1992 under suspicious circumstances,
the result of an alleged gun battle with Indian police.
Problems with Reyat's defence team forced the trial to be
It took months before Reyat appointed a lawyer.
David Martin finally came on in September 2001. A few months
later, the presiding judge postponed the trial from February
2002 to the following November in order to include Reyat's
trial with Malik's and Bagri's.
In May 2002, the trial was postponed to March
2003 after most of the lawyers on Reyat's defence team resigned
because of alleged fraudulent billing by Reyat's children.
Two of Reyat's adult children had been employed to do clerical
work on the case.
Shortly after the resignations, Reyat's former
defence lawyer, Gibbons, took over as lead lawyer. Gibbons
defended Reyat at his 1991 trial for manslaughter in the
deaths of two Japanese baggage handlers killed by a bomb
at the Narita Airport.
Then on Feb. 10, 2003, in a dramatic turn
of events, Reyat changed his story. He pleaded guilty to
one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the
construction of a bomb. All other charges against him
including the murder of 329 people were stayed and
he was sentenced to five years in jail for his role.
On April 28, 2003, the trial of Ripudaman
Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri began. The testimony,
presentation of evidence and arguments lasted until Dec.
3, 2004, just over 19 months.
Crown prosecutors presented their case, saying
Malik and Bagri were members of an organization now considered
a terrorist group by Ottawa, and presenting witnesses who
testified to their involvement in the bombings. Defence
lawyers argued their clients had nothing to do with the
bombings and said the Crown's witnesses were unreliable.
The outcome doesn't matter for one Canadian
who lost his family. Anant Anantaraman says he no longer
"It doesn't make any difference, I swear,"
Anantaraman told CBC News. "Because after all what
has happened to me and what has happened to others, it cannot