After many years of speculation, Rare Aero Ltd of UK had addressed the elephant in the room by releasing the following statement on various Aviation Forums. Noted historian Andy Saunders was contacted by Rare Aero Ltd to release it to the public.
The Statement acknowledges for the first time that the aircraft is in UK in the Channel Islands and also makes several sensational statements. These include claims that it was approached by people offering it services that would ensure it is covered up in India ... for a fee.
The following is the complete statement - verbatim:
“We have seen the various allegations on this aircraft since it was acquired by Rare Aero Ltd, and would make the following statement.
Hitherto, there has been much debate regarding this airframe and this has been exclusively based upon inaccurate reporting in the Indian press and subsequent speculation via the internet. Rare Aero have not entered this debate and have no intention of doing so. However, Rare Aero cannot continue to stand by whilst debate and misleading statements continue to be made via the internet. It is hoped that the following statement will go some way towards setting the record straight:
We do not condone smuggling or the illegal removal of historical artefacts from foreign countries and have never knowingly been involved in such activity.
In the particular case of Bf 109e Werke Nr. 4309, we have possession of the original contract between the Indian entrepreneur and the college who owned the airframe and we are in no doubt that the transaction was correctly and legally carried out on the basis that it was their property to dispose of. It was exported in a routine and, as far as we can ascertain, an open manner. We did not acquire the airframe directly from the college, but from a dealer in military vehicles. Incidentally, the engine number, found on the main bearing caps of 10625, agrees with the Air Intelligence report 3/139 thus confirming the identification.
It is our understanding that the allegations of wrong doing were made by an absentee trustee of the college. The aircraft was kept in atrocious conditions and had been much degraded in its last months due to it being moved from the long-standing position in the courtyard of the college to a scrap dump in a hollow that filled up regularly with filthy, sewage tainted water; hardly the action of an institution, of which this gentleman was a long established trustee, that saw any value in it. We make no comments on his possible motives behind these allegations.
To the best of our knowledge there has been no attempt to make contact with us by the Indian authorities and indeed we have written several times to the Air Attaché of the Indian High Commission to ascertain the truth behind the allegations, but they have all gone unanswered. The only contacts we have received are from Indians wanting to ‘solve the problem’ in exchange for a significant fee, journalists who are after a story when there is not one, and discussion forums with some posters seemingly trying to stir up trouble for their own amusement. The vast majority of you are very supportive and like us want to see the aircraft restored and flying again; however, it will prove difficult to advance the restoration whilst this speculation continues and it would be helpful to us if this speculation based upon incorrect and biased Indian newspaper reports could be brought to a close. Any untrue statements made in public will be dealt with through legal channels and Rare Aero would like to remind all concerned that discussion forums are, legally, a public broadcasting medium”.
It should be stated that our position in this matter is that we are not opposed to an aircraft being exported out of India for restoration - as long as such an export is not done at the expense of the local laws.
The key operating section is the portion where it states:
we are in no doubt that the transaction was correctly and legally carried out on the basis that it was their property to dispose of
This is the vary basis on which the Police case stands. Was the aircraft really the property of HKES for them to 'dispose of'? Would the City of Gulbarga have a say? Wouldnt it have been prudent to get a clearance from them as well as the IAF before the sale or export was made? (It is noted that these were exactly the steps taken when Peter Vacher exported Hurricane R4118 out of Benares).
From the information we have gathered over the years and as well as the fact that there is an on-going Police investigation, it is a stretch to claim that there were no laws broken in this export - only the Police First Investigation Report and the Subsequent Chargesheet filed in 2007 can make such a claim. And may we add that Police team took years to investigate and finally file the Chargesheet. While a case may be made that several parties had vested interest in the matter, a Chargesheet would not have been filed without a solid basis for it. It is a great disservice to accuse the Corps of Detectives of the Karnataka Police of ulterior motives as many posts on these forums tend to make one believe.
Rare Aero claims that several Indians contacted them to offer services to make this problem go away. They turned down such offers and infact contacted the UK High Commission about it. We fully commend Rare Aero on taking a principled stand in this matter.