A Tragic Twist

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The fog around Anil Ambani’s chopper sabotage becomes thicker, says Shantanu Guha Ray

Anil AmbaniALMOST A year and a half ago, Anil Ambani was offered security cover by intelligence agencies because they feared an attack on his life. He rejected the offer, for reasons best known to him. It was around the time when tensions between him and his elder brother, Mukesh, were at their peak. The buzz in the Indian capital was that the junior Ambani deliberately wanted to downplay such conspiracy theories. But on Wednesday, April 29, as the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) cancelled the maintenance contract of its Bell 412 helicopter with Mumbai-based Air Works India after mud and gravel were found in its fuel tank and gearbox, and the spotter then allegedly committed suicide under mysterious circumstances, rumours of a sabotage have once again started doing the rounds. “There are too many loose ends. It’s too early to comment,” Mumbai joint commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria told TEHELKA after police found the body of Bharat Borge lying next to the Ville Parle railway tracks. On April 23, Borge, an Air Works employee — the firm with the maintenance contract for Ambani’s 13-seater, twin-engine, helicopter since 2006 — found pebbles, stones and some marwaa mud (used for cementing) in the chopper’s gearbox during a routine check: Ambani was scheduled to use the chopper the next day.

A year and a half ago, Ambani junior was offered security by intelligence agencies. He rejected the offer

Even as the crime branch began an investigation, ADAG — in a strongly worded letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan — alleged a conspiracy by business rivals to murder Anil and demanded a probe. “Some of the stones were found inside the fuel tank, which could have been dangerous,” says Somnath Ghogle, one of the investigating officers.

Goghle added that two officials of Air Works have already been questioned. But the discovery of 43-year-old Borge’s body on the morning of April 28 was shocking. A note found in Borge’s pocket addressed to the investigating officer of crime branch unit IX said: ‘‘My parents have brought me up with the right values and I would never get involved in any wrong activity. After you questioned me and left, Reliance officials visited me. They asked me some questions but I didn’t tell them anything. One of them took my number and said they would talk to me again the next day. I got scared that I would be ‘used’. I wanted to inform you about the meeting, but when I visited the crime branch office at night, I saw a person being beaten up and that scared me and I came back. Your investigation is proceeding in the right direction and the truth will come out soon.’’

ADAG officials told TEHELKA that some of its men had indeed visited the Air Works’ office and spoke to Borge (they did take his mobile number). The next day, the technician committed suicide by

jumping in front of a speeding locomotive. Also, a few days before his death, Borge called his brother, Ananda, and discussed the chopper incident.

As charges and counter-charges fly about, Borge’s relatives allege foul play. A lot will depend on what the crime branch discovers, but whether it was sabotage or a more sinister plot to kill or harm Ambani — or something even murkier — there’s no doubt that Borge’s suicide has muddied the waters even more. For some strange reasons, no one knows the real Ambani story.

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