Court acquits two accused in Ambani helicopter sabotage case

Mumbai: A local court on Tuesday acquitted two persons accused of sabotaging business tycoon Anil Ambani's helicopter in April last year, due to lack of evidence.

Uday Wanekar (32) and Palraj Thewar (38) were arrested for allegedly planting pebbles and gravels in the combined gear box of the helicopter owned by Ambani on April 23 last year, while it was parked in the hanger of Airworks Indian Engineering Ltd for maintenance.

According to the prosecution, the duo, employed as helpers in Airworks, tried to sabotage the helicopter to cause wrongful loss and damage to Airworks following a dispute with the management.

"There was constant dispute between the management and union members including the two accused of Airworks. The duo wanted to take revenge and create trouble for the company," public prosecutor Pradip Gharat had argued.

Additional sessions judge M V Kulkarni, however, disbelieved the prosecution theory and acquitted the two after observing that the benefit of doubt is given to the accused.

The two were booked under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act and under various sections of IPC.

The case dates back to April 23 last year when technicians Bharat Borge and Ramshankar Chauhan had during inspection and refuelling found the filler cap of the gear box fitted on the reverse side. When the cap was opened, they found stones and soil inside.

The prosecution had examined 12 witnesses in the case including Chauhan and other technicians and aviation experts.

According to a report submitted by DGCA, gravel of about half an inch was found blocked at the valve located in the neck of the sump through which the oil passes from the oil filler cap to the oil tank.

"Although the fact that there was pebbles and gravel was proved by the prosecution, they could not prove that it was Wanekar and Thewar who had put them in the gear box," defence lawyer Vinayak Bichoo said, adding there was no eye witness to support the prosecution's case.

According to Bichoo, Wanekar and Thewar were falsely implicated in the case by Airworks who wanted an excuse to remove them from the company.

The defence lawyer had also pointed out to the court the mysterious death of key witness Borge just four days after the complaint was lodged. Borge had died after being crushed under a local suburban train.

"The police did not even bother to investigate Borge's death in connection with this case. All this has been done by the management of Airworks and Borge was under tremendous mental pressure prior to his suspicious death," Bichoo alleged.

Both Wanekar and Thewar, who were arrested in May last year, were released on bail by the Bombay High Court in November last.