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June 8, 1999
Probe Continues Into Alleged Welfare Fraud By A-I Bomber Suspect's Wife
A P Kamath in Vancouver
Satnam Singh, the wife of the convicted bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat, charged with defrauding the ministry of human resources of more than $100,000 (Canadian), is to appear in court this Friday.
Meanwhile, the Air India cell at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the controversial Khalsa Credit Union last week to check the financial accounts and transactions allegedly conducted by her.
The RCMP Corporal Grant Leanred confirmed the raids, even as most of the officers of the credit union refused to comment about it.
Satnam Singh Reyat is accused of creating a false paper trail to get welfare money for herself. She also received payments from Satnam Trust, linked to the Credit Union, while she was on welfare. According to the human resources ministry, she also received payments from Papillon Eastern Imports, run by Rupinder Singh Malik, president of the credit union.
Her supporters believe that she is being railroaded into helping the investigators build a case against her husband for the 1985 Air India blow up killing 329 people. Since the majority of the passengers were Canadians, the explosion is considered the worst mass murder in Canada.
"The investigation has gone on nearly 15 years and they cannot prove anything," said a family friend who asked for anonymity. "Now they are giving her trouble in order to get false confessions."
If convicted, she could be sentenced to a five to ten-year prison term.
Inderjit Singh Reyat is convicted of manslaughter for building a suitcase bomb, which blew up while being transferred from a Canadian flight at the Narita airport in Japan to an Air India jet, is a suspect in the Air India explosion. Two baggage handlers were killed at the Narita Airport. The flight had originated from Vancouver, the hotbed of Sikh extremism in North America.
Reyat, who received a 10-year sentence in 1991, could have been released by now under normal circumstances. Prisoners in North America rarely serve the full extent of their term.
"They will not release him, and now they want to put his wife in a prison," said the family friend. "Where is justice, where is democracy?"
The Khalsa credit union has received a great deal of negative press in the Canadian media. Last year the RCMP began investigating the alleged misuse of over $200,000 from the Satnam Education Society and Satnam Trust linked to the credit union.
Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun has also published many articles linking the president of the credit union, Malik, and the families of Air India bombing suspects. Her articles have angered the extremist Sikhs who have held demonstration against her, alleging that she is maligning the community.
Following death threats she received, ostensibly from the extremists, Bolan is under police protection for the last three months. Among other things, her articles alleged that the organizations led by Malik have assisted not only the Reyat family but have also employed close relatives of the late Talwinder Singh Parmar, the former leader of the extremist Babbar Khalsa, who was a key suspect in the Air India bombing.
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