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It was an inadvertent mistake: Bidappa
July 18, 2005 21:50 IST
Last Updated: July 18, 2005 22:24 IST
Leading Indian fashion designer Prasad Bidappa, who was arrested by the Dubai police on charges of possessing marijuana, on Monday said the pouch containing narcotics belonged to one of the invitees at a party in Kolkata and had been "inadvertently packed" into his bag.
"It was a big mistake," a much-relieved Bidappa, who arrived here on Sunday night told reporters at Bangalore.
Explaining the sequence of events, the fashion designer said one of the invitees at a party had brought along a packet measuring "just over an inch."
"After the party was over, I noticed the pouch lying on the television set and decided to throw it away later. However, while packing, all things were shoved into my bag. There were two-three people helping me with the packing, so I really do not know who shoved it, or whether I myself shoved it in."
Bidappa claimed he carried the bag to Bangalore and subsequently to Dubai without realising that the packet allegedly containing marijuana still lying in the side-pocket. "I was surprised when the sleuths there were checking my bags, because I was absolutely sure I was carrying no contraband and told them so. However, a search of the side pocket revealed the packet, much to my own surprise," he said.
Bidappa said he was whisked away by the police sleuths and grilled by the Central Department of Intelligence. "My biggest hurdle was I could not follow Arabic nor understand the forms they were trying to fill. For a long time, I had no clue as to what was happening," he said.
"I had no access to the phone, I could not contact anyone and I was there all night without being able to inform my family and friends," he said, adding "It was the worst night of my life." "In Dubai, whether you are carrying one gram, 100 grams or one kg of drug, makes no difference, you are treated as an offender," Bidappa said.
Following advice from a top advocate, a mercy petition, by his wife was filed, saying he should be let off because of the small amount of drug found and that it was not deliberately done or intended to violate any law.
"I do not really know what worked towards my release. I think it was the recommendation letters written by leading people, including former Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna," Bidappa said.
"There were scores of people who supported me, I was informed that Salman was ready to talk on behalf of me. I had corporates, my clients, friends Suneet Verma, Rohit Bal, Maneka Gandhi all sending letters and the Indian consulate took a great interest in my case, which helped," he said.
"It was also perhaps the constant media spotlight that helped my case through," Bidappa, who spent nearly a month in a detention centre with inmates from various other countries as co-offenders, said.
"I presented the letters of recommendation to the judge, who luckily perused it and appeared to be convinced that I was not a trafficker and that the pouch had inadvertently come into the baggage I was carrying. I was able to convince the judge that I was genuinely innocent," Bidappa said.
The fashion designer repeatedly maintained that he was treated well at the detention centre. "We were treated as humans. We had food served and access to the canteen and later even allowed use of a mobile phone for a short time.I bonded very well with the inmates. In fact, the people to first welcome and look after me were Pakistanis."
On conflicting reports in the media that the court was not aware of his release, he said "It cannot be, I can be free only when the court sends in the papers with signatures to the Department. One can't leave the place without the court's permission," Bidappa said.
However, despite his release on Friday, he had to stay back two additional days as he was unable to collect his passport since it was a holiday.
On whether he was a drug user, the fashion designer said "I am not hooked on to any drugs, though I have tried some during the early 80s." He dismissed reports quoting his wife Judith saying that he smoked marijuana. "The reports were wrong, she did not make any such statement. A media publication which had printed the article retracted the story later," Bidappa, whose discoveries include models and beauty queens like Nafisa Joseph, said.
On whether he planned to go back to Dubai he said "Yes, in the month of August. I will go back to the centre and the police station. I had been to Dubai for signing a contract for a mega musical production and I plan to do that now."
"I realised that come what may you must never give up, you must learn to survive. Hope never dies even under the worst circumstance. I believe I was lucky, many back there are not," Bidappa added.