US cop’s arrest has nothing to do with Khobragade case

New Delhi/New York, April 5: A New York police officer arrested at Delhi airport last month for carrying three live bullets in his luggage is out on bail, authorities in India said Saturday, as officials dismissed US media reports describing it as India’s revenge over the Khobragade affair.

US police officer Manny Encarnacion was arrested on March 11 after three 9 mm bullets were found in the pocket of a jacket in his checked luggage at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI), a senior airport official told IANS.

Encarnacion, a Harlem police officer from the New York Police Department (NYPD), had alighted from a New York flight at 1.30 a.m. March 11 and was headed to Pune to meet his newly-wedded wife on an Air India flight, scheduled for 11 a.m. It was when his luggage was passing the X-Ray machine to be loaded on the Air India flight that airport authorities noticed the three live bullets..

Officials wondered how Encarnacion went past US immigration with the live bullets in his luggage. “How did he manage to go past US airport scanners with the live bullets in his luggage,” a senior official asked.

Encarnacion was presented before a Delhi court on March 11, which granted him bail the same day.

Dismissing US media reports that the US cop’s arrest was in retaliation to the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade, India’s then deputy consul general in New York, an official told IANS: “If someone is carrying bullets in his baggage, it is against Indian law. There is a procedure to be followed in such cases.”

“This is a standalone case, it has nothing to do with the Khobragade case,” the official said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI Airport) M.I. Haider told IANS that Delhi International Airport (P) Limited (DIAL) officials upon noticing the bullets in the luggage immediately called up the airport police and kept Encarnacion’s luggage in custody.

Officials asked Encarnacion, who is around 35, to open his luggage and show the bullets. He was also asked for an explanation.

“When Encarnacion failed to give us a satisfactory reply for having the bullets in his luggage, he was arrested under the Arms Act. To carry arms and live cartridges without a licence and permission of the authorities during travel is an offence. The Arms Act is for same for everyone. It does not matter if the person is Indian or a foreigner,” Haider said.

“Encarnacion was booked under sections 25/54/59 of the Arms Act and produced before Patiala House court,” Haider said.

The New York Post has termed the arrest as India’s “revenge for Nannygate”. It said a security officer at the airport snarled, “You guys like to strip-search our diplomats,” as Encarnacion was arrested on felony charges under India’s Arms Act, punishable by anywhere from three to seven years.

Khobragade’s arrest and strip-search for alleged visa fraud and underpaying her nanny led to a bitter stand-off in Indo-US ties that ended with her recall to India last October. India retaliated by getting a US diplomat of similar rank sent back to the US.

Encarnacion has been barred from leaving India until his next court date April 19, the Post said.