Briton in death penalty case was MoD spy

Arms charges: MP's letter supports defence

Despite government denials, a Briton facing a possible death penalty in Calcutta for treason was working for British intelligence when he was arrested in India, The Independent has learned.

The Ministry of Defence denies any collaboration with Peter Bleach, 44, a former army intelligence officer turned arms dealer. He was arrested last December in Bombay after his cargo aircraft dropped by parachute a huge cache of arms allegedly destined for a Hindu revolutionary cult.

But a letter sent by Jeremy Hanley, the foreign minister, to the Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor on 30 April, confirms Mr Bleach's version that he had tipped-off defence officials about the arms plot. Mr Hanley wrote: "I understand that Mr Bleach was in contact with the Defence Export Sales Organisation (DESO) on a number of occasions. Mr Allkins of DESO passed a copy of Mr Bleach's letter on to the appropriate authorities. Subsequently, police officers visited Mr Bleach at his home. They advised him not to proceed further with the case.

"Following this meeting, Mr Bleach continued to contact DESO irregularly. On each occasion it was made clear to him that information was being passed on to the appropriate authorities, Mr Bleach agreed that he was content for this to happen."

But sources close to Mr Bleach dispute the Foreign Office's assertion he was warned off the arms delivery. "They told Peter to run with it and find out who the arms were meant for," the sources told The Independent. Sir Teddy, in correspondence with one of Mr Bleach's friends, remarked on Mr Hanley's letter: "You will see that the Government insists that they advised Peter not to proceed with the contract but I would think that this may simply be the normal defence mechanism with the Foreign Office!"

Mr Bleach's defenders claim that the ministry may be trying to hide its embarrassing ties with him. British intelligence passed on Mr Bleach's details of the proposed arms drop to Indian officials, but through a series of blunders (one secret letter was sent from New Delhi to West Bengal officials by ordinary post, arriving too late) the alleged ring-leaders, who belong to a Hindu sect known as Ananda Marg, all escaped. Only Mr Bleach and a Latvian air crew were caught.

"I think that the police are setting me up to take the consequences of the entire air-drop," Mr Bleach told The Independent. "They are treating me as the world's worst mercenary."

The Independent also learned that evidence allegedly proving Mr Bleach's ties to British intelligence were seized under the Prevention of Terrorism Act during simultaneous raids on his London flat and home in north Yorkshire, by the Metropolitan Police and North Yorkshire CID.

"The Indian police had gone to London, persuaded British police to obtain a search warrant, and then on 31 July they raided my girlfriend's house and took all the defence papers," Mr Bleach said. The papers, which Mr Bleach insists can prove his innocence, are in Special Branch custody.

Mr Bleach says he cannot find a barrister in Calcutta to defend him. He also asserts that Indian authorities have denied him a chance to examine the 300-page charge sheet against him.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said in New Delhi last January that Britain would not plead Mr Bleach's cause. "My government has no interest in anything other than the [Indian] law taking its normal course," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'