Saudi Aramco executive spent week in Chamoli jail for carrying satellite phone

A senior executive of oil giant Saudi Aramco spent almost a week in custody in Uttarakhand after he was arrested by police in July for carrying a satellite phone without permission from authorities while on a holiday. He was released after paying a fine of Rs 1,000.

Fergus MacLeod, head of investor relations at Saudi Aramco, told the UK’s Financial Times he was arrested on July 12 at his hotel in the Valley of Flowers National Park. The 62-year-old was held in prison in the town of Chamoli until July 18.

According to the FT report, authorities detained the British executive after picking up the coordinates of the phone, which MacLeod says he turned on and off at his hotel but did not use while on the holiday with friends, some of whom were colleagues from Saudi Aramco.

A part of Chamoli district lies along the Line of Actual Control with China.

Chamoli SP Shweta Choubey told The Indian Express that the executive was held by Chamoli police after he was found carrying a satellite phone, which is against the rules — possession or use of satellite phones by foreign nationals without prior approval is illegal, unauthorised in India.

“He did not have any idea that it is not legal to carry a satellite phone in India (without prior permission) and he carried it with him. That is why he was detained. There was nothing wrong in the process,” she said.

Narendra Singh Rawat, Station Officer of Govind Ghat police station in Chamoli, said on July 11 they received information about a foreign national carrying a satellite phone in an area close to the border.

“We sent a policeman to confirm that the man was carrying a satellite phone. It was confirmed. He was travelling to the Valley of Flowers and was detained from there,” he said.

“He was arrested under sections of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act. After the arrest was made, he was sent to the district jail where he stayed until July 18 before getting bail. On July 27, the case ended after he paid a fine of Rs 1,000,” Rawat said.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission in New Delhi said, “We provided consular support to a British man in India.”

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