T.V. Sivanandan

Antique Messerschmitt was removed from a college in Gulbarga

The plane was originally gifted to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the RAFIt was shifted to the Poojya Doddappa Appa College of Engineering in the 1950s or early 60sThe plane is believed to have been taken abroad

GULBARGA: Even after four years the State police has failed to locate the person who shifted the priceless German Messerschmitt BF109E-1 fighter aircraft used in World War II from the Poojya Doddappa Appa College of Engineering here or recover the plane.

The aircraft was gifted to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the Royal Air Force of Britain in return for funding two RAF squadrons in 1941. The aircraft, which was placed in Secunderabad for public viewing, was later was shifted to Gulbarga, which was also under the Nizam's rule. For several years it was kept in the Mehboob Shahi Gulshan Garden here.

The then Gulbarga Municipality allowed the aircraft to be shifted to the Poojya Doddappa Appa College of Engineering in the late 1950s or early 1960s for the benefit of students.

A Bangalore-based antique dealer, Girish Naidu, allegedly "persuaded" the Hyderabad Karnataka Education Society, which runs the engineering college, to hand over the aircraft in return for a Morris Minor car, an antique motorcycle and an aircraft in non-flying condition.

The "deal" came to light only five or six months later by which time the aircraft had been removed from the college. The man responsible for exposing the deal was the former Minister S.K. Kanta, who filed a complaint against the management of the Hyderabad Karnataka Education Society and its then president, B.G. Jawali, a Congress MP for three terms, who is now in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

CoD probe

The local police, after conducting a fruitless investigation for three years, wrote to the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police in April last year requesting him to hand over the case either to the Corps of Detectives (CoD) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Official sources told The Hindu here on Thursday that the case was handed over to the CoD three months ago. A team of CoD officials visited Gulbarga and recorded the statements of Dr. Jawali and members of the Managing Council of the society. The CoD team also visited Hyderabad in search of Mr. Naidu, who has not been seen since June 2003 when he appeared before a local court.

The investigation so far has revealed that Mr. Naidu dismantled the antique aircraft and shifted it in a lorry to the farmhouse of Sujat Nawab at Chawal in Rangareddi district of Andhra Pradesh. The dismantled aircraft was sold to Vathan Chassirukul for Rs. 3 lakh. The buyer is said to be from Thailand.