15 Nov, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK
KOLKATA: Kathy L Stearman on Tuesday became the first senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official to testify in an Indian court.
The 45-year-old US official's testimony was crucial to prove that it was Aftab Ansari, mastermind of the July 25, 2001 Khadim boss abduction case, who made several calls to a Kolkata number — 9830656169 — from Dubai. She was required to vouch for the authenticity of a detailed call chart, for a month from July 1 to August 1, 2001, and which ran into almost eight pages, provided by FBI to CBI.
Aftab, incidentally, was sentenced to death for the January 22, 2002 American Center attack case by a trial court in April last year. The death sentence now awaits confirmation by the Calcutta High Court.
Naba Kumar Ghosh, public prosecutor, who questioned Kathy, said, "She informed the court that her office did receive a requisition from CBI for supplying information regarding the calls made to this cell number. It was on its basis, FBI had send two call charts, duly attested by the notary public (in the US), to the director, CBI. One was provided by the then US embassy's legal attache Paul Hauton; the other by his deputy John T Dweyer."
Both senior officers has since retired; Kathy is the present legal attache. Ghosh said,"She was cross-examined only once today. She might be requested to come again to enable the defence to question her." She is expected to appear again next month.
Whisked inside the high-security prison around 1:35 pm, she left nearly an hour-and-a-half later. DIG (CID-Operations) Rajeev Kumar said,"This is quite extraordinary and a very good gesture on the US's part."
A senior CID officer said when they'd first informed the US embassy about this (the need for a senior FBI officer to vouch for the authenticity of the call chart), they didn't expect they’d respond so quickly. "They could have easily refused such a request. They need not appear before any court in India for their diplomatic status. Yet, they did it," the officer said.
A senior officer said, "They perhaps are keen to drive home the message of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies probing such trans-national crimes." Khadim co-owner Partha Pratim Roy Burman was abducted from Tiljala’s C N Ray Road on July 25, 2001. A man identifying himself as Arsalan called his Salt Lake home the next morning, demanding a Rs 20 crore ransom. The CID tracked the calls – made from a cellphone – to Chennai. Unable to proceed further, it sought help from CBI.
CBI found that the calls were only being routed through Chennai. The tower through which this was being done belonged to US-based cellular operator Sprint. CBI sought FBI's help to trace the calls, which found the calls were being made by a Dubai-based subscriber, routed through the US to India using the Sprint tower in Chennai.
Law enforcement agencies took notice of Aftab Ansari only after FBI provided the call details. All this was done within a couple of days while the Roy Burman family negotiated and scaled down the ransom to Rs 5 crore. A senior Khadim officer then flew to Hyderabad and paid Rs 3.74 crore to one Karim Dollar (later arrested).