Canada's spy agency did everything it could to keep the Air-India mass-murder case from coming to trial in order to cover up the involvement of an agent in the plot to blow up the airplanes, an RCMP officer says in newly released court documents.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed tape recordings of intercepted telephone conversations of prime suspects to hamper the legal case, RCMP Staff Sergeant Don Adam told Air-India defendant Ripudaman Singh Malik during an interrogation shortly after Mr. Malik was arrested in October, 2000.
"If you were a policeman, why would a government agency destroy the, the very tapes that would, you know . . . can you think of why?" Staff Sgt. Adam said.
Staff Sgt. Adam was referring to hundreds of hours of CSIS wiretap tapes that were erased before the RCMP heard them.
"Perhaps if your agent was right in the middle of it, and then it happened, and now you were all going to look horrible, you might, you might have a reason to cover that up, wouldn't you," he said.
The trial documents, which were released late last week, also include comments by other RCMP officers describing the activities of a man they identify as a CSIS agent.
The RCMP officer's comments about CSIS have not been confirmed. Occasionally Mounties make statements during interrogations as a ruse in order to draw out information from defendants.
The officers said a CSIS mole was part of the conspiracy and may have been told to back away from the group a few days before the 1985 explosions to ensure that CSIS would not be implicated in the deaths.
The possible involvement of a CSIS spy in the inner circle of the Air-India bombing conspiracy inflamed passions and renewed calls yesterday for a royal commission into the twin explosions that killed 331 people 18 years ago.
"Stop the charade," said Kuldip Singh Chaggar, a former lawyer for Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty to helping make a bomb that exploded on an Air-India flight.
"This is a cover-up. No one wants you to get at the truth," Mr. Chaggar said yesterday in an interview.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien promised a public inquiry into the bombing years ago and should deliver on his promise before he leaves office, Mr. Chaggar said.
Susheel Gupta, a federal prosecutor whose mother was one of the 329 people killed on the Air-India flight that blew up off the Irish coast, said the current trial is not enough to expose what happened.
"If it is true that CSIS had previous knowledge, it's very surprising and disturbing," he said. "CSIS is there to protect us. There should be an inquiry."
Two RCMP officers identified an outspoken Canadian advocate of Sikh separatism in India, Surjan Singh Gill, as a CSIS spy.
"Mr. Surjan Singh Gill was involved in this right from the start and was probably directed by certain people to stay involved and to learn what was going on," RCMP Inspector Lorne Schwartz stated on Oct. 28, 2000, while interrogating another defendant Ajaib Singh Bagri in the Air-India trial.
RCMP Sergeant Jim Hunter said Mr. Gill, at the behest of his CSIS handlers, wrote out a note resigning from the group before the bombs were placed on the aircraft.
CSIS spokeswoman Nicole Currier refused to comment yesterday.
Mr. Chaggar said he had been told by the RCMP years ago that they had not ruled out the possibility that someone working for a government agency might have been involved in the conspiracy to blow up the aircraft.
The Air-India bombings on June 23, 1985, remain the deadliest crime in Canadian history. Mr. Malik, a businessman, and Mr. Bagri, a millworker, are being tried on murder charges.