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KIM DAVY/ Purulia arms dropping in


>From The Week Magazine in India
February 20, 2000

He has 46 passports and as many aliases; he speaks a dozen languages,
including Hindu; and he can raise half a million dollars in no time with
a couple of telephone calls. Small wonder, Jan Christien Neilson alias
Kim Palgrave Davy alias Peter Johnson roams free while his hirelings who
airdropped arms over Purulia in West Bengal in 1995 are behind bars.

British arms runner Peter Bleach and five Latvian aircrew were jailed
for life on February 2, but Davy ? a slightly-built man with piercing
eyes ? has remained elusive. There were reports that he might surrender
to a court in native Denmark, but Bleach shrugged them off. "He is too
big guys behind him to give up so easily. And the Indians have not done
enough to chase him," Bleach told The Week minutes after the sentence
was passed.

Few Indians have seen Davy, who vanished from Mumbai airport where the
arms runners were forced to land on the night of December 21, 1995. Now,
the Ananda Marga sect, which has been absolved in the arms dropping
case, has demanded a judicial inquiry into his mysterious escape act.
"We have good reasons to believe Davy was escorted away by Indian
intelligence officials," said the sect's spokesman, Bhaveshananda

According to Bleach's friend and former MP Sir Teddy Taylor, Davy has
been seen in company of British and American intelligence officers and
diplomats in Nairobi, from where they support Sudanese rebels against
Khartoum. "They may be protecting Davy," Taylor told The Week.

At Hotel Sarina and Hotel Safari Club in Nairobi, Davy has also been
seen with John Garrang, commander-in-chief of the Sudanese People's
Liberation Army (SPLA). These Christian rebels in south Sudan have
successfully fought Marxist and Islamic regimes in Khrtoum over the

The Americans, who have not hidden their love for the SPLA, apparently
used Davy to fly weapons to Garrang on Soviet-made transport aircraft he
purchased cheap. Unlike in Purulia, he did not airdrop the weapons since
the SPLA controls a wide expanse of Sudanese territory. He could safely

But Davy is no mere arms dealer. He has his hand in minerals, gold and
precious stones. In early 1995, his Howerstock International Trading Ltd
commissioned a Filipino  geological consultant, Declaro Zafra and
Associates, to survey the rich gold deposits in Kapoeta in south Sudan.

Zafra identified five distinct gold-bearing localities in Kapoeta and
estimated the total recovery potential at some 12 million ounces. At
$350 per ounce, it was worth $4,150 million. The rebels, who give armed
cover during the survey, were to be paid royalties for each ounce mined.

Howerstock or any of the other companies owned by Davy had no presence
in the mining world before he commissioned the survey. They were anyway
too small to enter gold mining. Obviously, Howerstock was being funded
by a global mining giant. Howerstock operates the mines, recovers the
gold and brings it out of south Sudan through Kenya, which has given it
an assay certificate legitimising the shipments.

Howerstock gold initially brought down prices in the global market. But
the giant backing Howerstock was only test-marketing the gold, and
prices again stabilised once it became known that it would take a few
years for full scale mining to start. The mining giant was treading
cautiously before heavily investing in a politically unstable country.

South Sudan offered Davy a weapon-mining-insurgent combination. Purulia
has iron ore and coal mines in the vicinity, but no gold or diamond
which he is interested in. But a weapon-mining-insurgent combination of
interests exists further east, in the Kachin State of Myanmar.

The state has a powerful rebel army ? the Kachin Independence Army
(KIA), FORMED IN 1961, FOUGHT Burmese forces for decades and maintained
control over the northen region bordering India and China. The rich jade
mines of Hpakam and Longkin are located in that area, which also has
rubies and sapphires. The Kachin area is also supposed to have gold

In 1992-93, the Burmese army, beefed up with Chinese arms, launched a
fierce offensive against the Kachins and compelled them to sign a
ceasefire agreement. By 1995, it was clear that the military junta would
not grant autonomy to the Kachins. The KIA chief Malizup Zau Mai went
looking for arms and allies.

The Kachins could find some support in the eastern part of Arunachal
Pradesh, even as India was trying to cultivate the junta. In April-May
1995, the Burmese army was involved in a holding operation during the
Indian army's 'Operation Golden Duck' against a joint rebel column of
the Ulfa and two other rebel outfits from Assam and Manipur.

So it could well be that a mining giant offered the Kachins weapons in
exchange for permission to do gold and diamond prospecting in areas
under their control. The Kachins were the ideal candidates for receiving
a Purulia-like airdrop.

The Ananda Marga may be interested in securing a few revolvers, or even
rifles, but only an outfit like the KIA, which takes on the Burmese army
in set piece battles, would need anti-tank weapons. Bleach admits that
the drop was not meant for the Ananda Marga, though Davy had been a
Margi in the 1970s.

When the air traffic controllers asked the AN-26 to land in Mumbai, Davy
burnt all his papers in a bin, but carefully left behind in the cockpit
one of his old photographs with some Ananda Margis. This was perhaps to
confuse investigations.

But how did the weapons land in Purulia if they had been meant for the
Kachins? Bleach says that when the parachutes came on board at Karachi
for airdropping the weapons, the Latvian crew picked up a fight with
Davy because they had been under the impression that they were carrying
"technical equipment" to Bangladesh. During the rest of the flight, Davy
wielded an AK-56 rifle to keep the Latvians under control, but Bleach
says, "They were really angry and did everything to mess up the drop."

Bleach says the real drop zone for the weapons "was much further east".
Davy had tried for landing permission in Dhaka, and sent his sidekick,
Perter Haestrup, to "buy of the guys at Dhaka" with $50,000 but that did
not work.

Why did Davy want to land in Dhaka unless the aircraft was planning to
drop the arms further east? Flying out of Dhaka would make it much
easier to drop over Kachin hills, an area considered difficult for
fliers because of the "hump" there. So, was he trying to open a new arms
supply route to Kachin?

Subir Bhaumik
(He is BBC's eastern India correspondent.)