They were part of the unaccompanied baggage booked by a retired Army officer.
Customs authorities found maps and blueprints of vital installations, including naval establishments, in a consignment booked to the U.S. by a retired Army officer here on Thursday evening.
According to police sources, Customs Superintendent Magudapathy and team found the “suspicious” articles kept in five boxes during a random check. Central/State intelligence agencies inspected the seizures. A total of 54 items such as blueprints of the Naval Dry Dock, Visakhapatnam, Air Force Academy, Hyderabad and a road map of Muzaffarpur and Meerut were found in the unaccompanied baggage of Col. Hugh A. Marley (78) of Salem.
Sources in the Customs Department told The Hindu that the documents were packed in the five steel boxes and booked to California as baggage by Mr. Marley. He left for the U.S. in the last week of February this year. Before leaving he had advised an agent to send the boxes to him.
The Customs authorities said when they were doing a random check on unaccompanied baggage they found a blueprint of the Naval Dry Dock, Visakhapatnam and seized all the boxes booked to Mr. Marley.
A senior Customs official said: “When we found a map in the baggage it raised doubts and after seizing all the boxes and an inventory was made, it came to light that there were blueprints of places of strategic importance.”
The authorities also found a good number of books relating to map reading and defence issues. The baggage contained other official Defence documents such as Court Martial orders, the sources said.
When Customs officials contacted Mr. Marley, he told them that the materials belonged to him and they were personal effects. No decision was taken on handing over the matter to law enforcing agencies for investigation, a Customs official said. “It is too early to comment on whether the retired Army official would be called to India for questioning,” he added.
Sources in the intelligence agencies said Mr. Marley who was living in Yercaud had recently moved to California. His passport (PP F 0753076) showed his place of birth as Patna (Bihar). “No case has been registered yet. Investigation is on to ascertain the source of the maps and the purpose of taking them to the U.S. The seizures do not seem to come under the purview of the Official Secrets Act,” an official in the State intelligence said.
Maps of vital installations found in consignment to U.S.
The seizure created huge excitement among intelligence agencies, including the IB and RAW. However, on close scrutiny and some preliminary probing here and in the US, the agencies seem convinced that the blueprints “are just effects from an old man’s attic that had gathered dust over the years”.
I spy: Seized blueprints, blind alley: Deccan Chronicle
After the Customs officials at the port detained the five boxes after stumbling upon some project documents of the Indian Army and blueprints of the Naval dock Yard, the freight forwarding agent called up Mr Marley, but the Ex-Army Engineer, who retired as Colonel, was cool.
He told the agent that all of them were his personal belongings and he was carrying them as his memoirs and faulted the Customs for detaining them. Quoting Mr Marley, the agent who preferred anonymity said, "Why so much fuss..its my work and the projects were designed by me in the good old days." The 78-year-old Colonel promised to write in detail to the Customs. The Ex-Army Civil Engineer exuded confidence that the Customs would clear all his boxes as he had nothing to hide and he was not carrying anything incriminating.
Customs Officials detain Ex army officer's belongings
Veterans need to be careful. On retirement one should ensure all documents are destroyed pertaining to Military affairs even if they are personal effects. This is especially applicable to senior officers.
Col Hugh A Marley (Retd) served in the Corps of Engineers from 1954 to 1979 (First PhD in Corps of Engineers). After premature retirement, he joined his daughter in CA and has been there from 1980. He was in India to attend the Montfort Global Reunion at Yercaud from 21 Jan to 25 Jan 2010 his Alma mater. He owned a house in Yercaud which he wanted to clear up. That is how the luggage and baggage was being transshipped after a span of 30 years from India to California. Col Hugh Marley in his twilight years failed to check the contents of the boxes and hence the goof up receiving the media coverage! Incidentally the Naval Dock Yard in question was designed by him which is perhaps why he held those documents as proof of his proud achievements- now has landed him a dock!
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