Industrialist Anil Ambani has alleged a "conspiracy" to murder him after pebbles and gravel were found in the gear box of his helicopter and demanded a probe into the "sabotage". The Mumbai Crime Branch on Friday evening decided to take over the investigations.
The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group wrote a strongly-worded letter to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, alleging "a conspiracy to murder" its chairman Anil Ambani and demanding a thorough probe into the incident.
Announcing that the Mumbai Crime Branch was taking over the probe, Joint Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria told reporters late on Friday evening: "We have asked the local police to transfer the case to us and we shall carry out further investigations into the matter."
The police plan to set up a special probe team to inquire into the incident which has sent shockwaves in business and aviation circles.
Air Works India Engineering Pvt Ltd, which was engaged in maintaining the 13-seater, twin-engined Bell 412 helicopter (No. VT-RCL) since October 2006, has put off duty its entire maintenance engineering staff of 52 for at least one day, or till the police probe into the incident is completed, a company spokesman said.
"We are fully co-operating with the investigators and we felt that till the probe is over, none of our engineers should be present or hamper the investigations in any manner," the spokesman said in Mumbai tonight.
In the letter addressed to Chavan, Capt RN Joshi, senior pilot with Reliance Transport & Travels Pvt Ltd, giving a detailed account of the incident, said: "The planned manner in which the pebbles and gravel were put in the filler cap, at a height of 10 feet above the ground in the gear box, and the gear box cap was closed thereafter, clearly shows that some persons and possible business rivals were attempting to take away the life of Anil Ambani. This is clearly an attempt to murder."
The letter adds that this would not have been possible without the active involvement of Air Works technicians and the operation was carried out with expert help. Only 13 Air Works technicians - whose names are given in the letter - had access to the helicopter, Capt Joshi added.
Though the Santacruz Airport police station, where Air Works lodged a complaint at 5.30 pm on Thursday, has detained four and questioned several other Air Works employees in connection with the incident, there is no further progress in the incident, a police official said.
"We are still investigating the matter and questioning several of the persons concerned with the helicopter maintenance. Only after we get proper evidence, we shall initiate appropriate proceedings, including arresting them," Senior Inspector SM Ghuge of Santacruz Airport Police Station said.
Capt Joshi's letter also mentioned that the chopper was being prepared for a scheduled flight to take Anil Ambani and nine other top officials of Reliance Infocomm from Mahalaxmi Race Course (south Mumbai) to Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City (DAKC) in Navi Mumbai, a 20-minute flight, on Friday morning.
Keeping the possibilities in view, the police have registered the Air Works complaint invoking Sec. 440 of the Indian Penal Code, dealing with 'a mischievous intent to murder'.