Business Process Outsourcing, Information Technology, Executive Training, Multi-National Corporations - all buzzwords associated with the influx of expatriates living and working in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and elsewhere
in booming India.
So, in late July, when the masterminds behind the Ahmedabad serial blasts sent threatening e-mails from the wi-fi laptop network of American expatriate Kenneth Haywood, a Navi Mumbai-based 'executive at a multinational corporation', many didn't give his background a second glance, assuming him to be one of the firangs we've heard so much about.
Till his sudden flight back to the US over the weekend, even as security agencies scramble to figure out how he beat the airport alert and fled the country, Haywood was dismissed as an innocent if unfortunate bystander, just another victim caught up in India's seemingly growing web of terror. Till his unusual departure Haywood co-operated with the authorities and gave a full round of interviews in the immediate wake of the incident, further dampening suspicion.
After all, his story -- that he was in India as part of a two-year contract with a multinational firm and that he has "20 years of experience in hands-on corporate training and held senior positions with Fortune 500 companies" -- was easily believable.
About his wi-fi connection's hacking, he said his wife had previously seen someone climbing about the roof of their building, that the technician who set up his web connection had recommended he not change his default password and that he had already complained about excessively high browsing bills. On its face, this also makes sense: The man's network had been hacked.
But Haywood's unorthodox departure has put the spotlight on his employer, Campbell White, which presents itself as a trainer in soft skills with offices across India.
Its website details its expertise in imparting soft skills, and has undergone major changes since L'affaire Haywood, and there's an explanation for why its staffers have been reduced to mere first names, and directing all queries to one email id: email@example.com
Interestingly, Haywood doesn't feature on its list of employees. The Indian Express reported on August 14 that the company's Mumbai office 'is located in two small adjoining rented rooms on the ground floor of Sanpada railway station complex', and that 'the two rooms also serve as prayer rooms on Sundays and Thursdays for Potter's House. A notice on the wall says community service has been cancelled until further notice and is signed by Haywood.'
Potter's House is part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries based in Arizona (Haywood's home state, incidentally), and appears under a number of different monikers: the Door Christian Centre, La Puerta, Potter's House, and Victory Chapel.
US media accounts of the group, which date back to the early 1980s, paint the group as a far-right Christian cult, determined to evangelise the entire world. It's been the subject of scathing critiques, including some by former members.
One former member, Steve Schoner, was so affected by his experiences that he created 'Life After Potter House' a website for those attempting to leave the group.
Haywood reportedly was personally ordained as a minister by Wayman Mitchell, founder of CFM. Though he resented himself as a corporate executive in India, people in his hometown say otherwise. In e-mail correspondence with some from Arizona, rediff.com has learned that Kenneth Haywood was/is a pastor at the Flagstaff Christian Fellowship.
When asked why he left Arizona, rediff.com was told that he had "become a missionary".
So what is the link between Campbell White and Potter House? Was Haywood the only common element between the two?
In the past, Mitchell has pointed to India as a country where CFM could make significant inroads.
And Haywood is seemingly not the only Campbell White employee with links to CFM. The Internet is full of postings and message boards about many of its past employees having similar links.
Today, the additional commissioner of police in the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Parambir Singh, told rediff.com that the ATS was not focused on Haywood's possible association with Potter's House Church, and is more concerned with determining the origin of the terror e-mail.
ATS chief Hemant Karkare was more blunt when he told the Indian Express: 'We have conducted inquiries into Haywood's background and his company.
These are of a slightly dubious nature, and even the company he works for and its office are a bit suspect.
'However, this does not directly link him with the case in any way. Having a suspicious background, or even working for a bogus company, is not enough to book anyone for involvement in terror activities. We cannot arrest anyone simply for his religious beliefs or profile.'