The government had considered the option of opposing Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley’s plea bargain in US court that, once accepted, would firmly shut the door on any possibility of his extradition to India, a key retired government official has said.
In hindsight, Pillai — who had supported approaching the US court against acceptance of his guilty plea — hinted this might not have been the best decision. In a deal with prosecutors, Headley had pleaded guilty to conspiracies to plan for terror attacks in India and Denmark on the condition that he would not be extradited to India, Denmark or Pakistan.
The deal, however, is yet to be accepted by the court and is linked to his cooperation with investigators.
There have been lurking suspicions within the Indian security establishment that this no-extradition plea suited US security agencies that had used Headley to spy for them.
It isn’t clear when he switched sides to become a double agent. Pillai believes Headley’s links with the US Drug Enforcement Agency enabled him to change his name from the original Daood Gilani that could have aroused suspicions.
“We had asked the US to provide details of people who helped him change his name but didn’t get the information,” he said.
Pillai said the logical consequence of the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency against Headley and Pakistani terrorists over the weekend was to initiate the legal process for his extradition.