UK Muslim Pilot: "Suspicions Were Not Unfounded"


In some instances, the Government’s policy is to disrupt a plot before it reaches its final stages, in the interests of public safety, even if this means that ultimately there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.

‘I was satisfied on the evidence  that there was more than a trivial security risk in this case, and therefore I could not be satisfied that Samir was suitable to hold a security pass.  My suspicions were not unfounded.’

‘Terror link’ pilot who flew 747s for BA can be identified for the first time

By Ian Gallagher/DAILY MAIL

Last updated at 1:55 AM on 5th February 2012

A Muslim pilot arrested over an alleged terrorist plot involving an aircraft was a senior first officer for British Airways and flew Boeing 747 jets.

He can be identified for the first time today as Surrey-born Samir Jamaluddin.

The 39-year-old is suing the airline for racial and religious discrimination after losing his job.

He was judged a security risk after his arrest by Scotland Yard counter-terrorism detectives in 2007, and the airline decided it was in the national interest to ensure he never flew again.

He was eventually dismissed three years later.

The pilot was unmasked when employment tribunal reporting restrictions were lifted on Friday after 12 days of highly charged evidence, allowing the case’s extraordinary circumstances to be revealed for the first time.

'Proud to be British': Pilot Samir Jamaluddin‘Proud to be British’: Pilot Samir Jamaluddin

During the case – described as unique and unprecedented – the tribunal heard that BA became increasingly ‘frustrated’  at the previous Labour Government’s failure to act over the issue.

In private, the security services and the Department for Transport’s security arm, Transec, backed the airline’s decision to prevent Mr Jamaluddin from flying.

But they failed to pursue the matter or support BA officially, even after BA’s former chief executive, Willie Walsh, raised the matter with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

BA was told the Government was not prepared to instruct the firm to withdraw Mr Jamaluddin’s airside security pass because, at the time, it was ‘particularly sensitive to its handling of terrorist threats’.

The tribunal heard this was because some suspected terrorists had recently had their convictions overturned on appeal.

Final ruling: BA chief Willie Walsh arriving at the tribunalFinal ruling: BA chief Willie Walsh arriving at the tribunal

Mr Walsh said of his meeting with the Home Secretary: ‘Among the issues we discussed was the involvement of various Government agencies in Samir’s case, their reluctance to confirm many of their oral recommendations in writing, and the difficult position this put BA in.’

Tim Steeds, BA’s director of security, accused Transec of ‘sitting on the fence’ and said he too asked the Home Secretary ‘to move things forward’.

But help was not forthcoming and the airline was left to resolve the problem alone.

‘They [Transec] were clear they did not want Samir to fly again, but that the decision to allow Samir to fly or not was BA’s,’ said Mr Steeds. ‘We became so frustrated.’

The tribunal heard that at a briefing attended by MI5, MI6 and senior police officers in October 2007, BA was warned that two businessmen wanted to fly a ‘747 by Christmas 2007’ and had paid for lessons upfront in cash.

Both had been having up to four lessons a day, which the tribunal was told was ‘extremely unusual’.

But BA believed they would have had time to learn only to ‘steer a 747 mid-flight, not take off or land’.

The two men were arrested along with Mr Jamaluddin later the same month, after his close  links to them were uncovered by police.

None of the arrests resulted in convictions, but after conducting two inquiries the airline concluded Mr Jamaluddin was in a ‘position to cause considerable harm’ and should not fly again.

Ultimately, the final ruling on his future was made by Mr Walsh, now chief executive of BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group.

The pilot, a practising Muslim of Indian descent, believes the decision to end his ten-year career was unfair and taken against a background of post-September 11 paranoia and prejudice.

He said his job with BA represented the ‘pinnacle of commercial flying’, insisted he was proud to be British and said he was effectively judged, wrongly, as ‘guilty by association’.

But in his evidence Mr Walsh insisted:  ‘I emphatically deny that I have discriminated against Samir.’

BA acknowledged that the ‘stakes were high’ for both sides. While the pilot’s career was at risk,  ‘a wrong decision could have . . . potentially catastrophic consequences  for BA and its passengers’. 

'Security risk': As a senior first officer, Samir Jamaluddin flew jumbo jets for British Airways ‘Security risk’: As a senior first officer, Samir Jamaluddin flew jumbo jets for British Airways

Mr Steeds said that after the Twin Towers attacks in 2001, it became apparent anyone who knew how to fly posed a potential threat and that ‘airlines would need to have absolute trust in their pilots’.

He revealed that BA persuaded counter-terrorism officers not to arrest Mr Jamaluddin under the Terrorism Act because it would cause the airline ‘significant  public relations issues’.

He said it would also have been bad for the Government’s relations with  the US.

In the event, Mr Jamaluddin was arrested over money-laundering offences connected to  the alleged terror plot and, much to BA’s relief, the news never became public.

The pilot’s brother, Yakoob Jamaluddin, an active member of the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was questioned over the same offences but never charged.

Mr Steeds first became aware of the alleged plot on October 9, 2007, when he was briefed under the Official Secrets Act.

He was told how two men – Adam Mohamed, 32, of Chessington, Surrey, and Imad Shoubaki, 35, of Merton, South London – had ‘sought flying  lessons in order to achieve a private pilot’s licence as quickly as possible’.

Mr Steeds said police ‘disrupted that activity’ because of fears about what they might be planning.

BA documents relating to 747  aircraft were discovered in Mr Shoubaki’s home after his arrest.

Tribunal:The discrimination case is being heard at the tribunal building in Havant, Hampshire

Mr Steeds said he was told at the briefing that ‘information suggested these documents had been passed at a  dinner party in Chessington. I was asked for details of BA pilots who might live in that area’.

The airline came up with Mr Jamaluddin. Not only did he live  a mile away, he had also been the  subject of an informal inquiry a year earlier after allegedly expressing support for the September 11 attacks while on a flight deck – a claim he denies.

Police then established the first of several links between Mr Jamaluddin and the two men.  The first was that his brother  Yakoob was in business with  Mr Mohamed.

The pilot and his brother were arrested on October 23. Mr Steeds said police told him it ‘seemed as if Samir had been expecting to be arrested’ as they found the name and number of a prominent human rights lawyer who specialises in race discrimination issues punched into his mobile phone.

‘They also informed me that  copies of the flight documents previously shown to BA had been found in Samir’s flight bag.’

He added: ‘I considered it was too much of a coincidence that Samir had documents in his possession which were the same  as those found in Mr Shoubaki’s  possession, given the links.’

Police did not find Mr Jamaluddin’s fingerprints on the papers and, despite the airline’s suspicions, it was never proved that the pilot was the source.

But it also transpired that the pilot and his brother were co- signatories on a safety deposit box next to a box rented by the father of Mr Mohamed.

It was found to contain a large amount of cash and records showed both boxes had been opened at the same time.

Unique case: The Mail on Sunday revealed news of the tribunal two weeks agoUnique case: The Mail on Sunday revealed news of the tribunal two weeks ago

Mr Steeds said he was equally ‘troubled’ by a cheque stub found at Mr Jamaluddin’s house recording a payment of £10,000 to Mr Mohamed.

The pilot claimed it was a payment for the rent of a flat, but BA did not find the  explanation convincing. 

Mr Steeds said it was also  suspicious that Mr Jamaluddin applied to join pilots’ union Balpa only after Mr Shoubaki and Mr Mohamed were arrested.

Again, he said it suggested that Mr Jamaluddin was quite possibly expecting to be caught up in the terror investigation and ‘might need representation’.

Mr Mohamed and Mr Shoubaki were accused of a range of terror offences, including conspiring to possess money for terrorist purposes.

All charges against Mr Mohamed were dropped, and in September 2008 a jury cleared Mr Shoubaki, an IT  specialist, of possessing items of use to a terrorist.

He was accused of seeking to amass a library about making explosives and collecting ‘practical, step-by-step instructions’ for anyone interested in founding a ‘worldwide Islamic state’ on violence.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court cleared him after he said he did not own the items found in his house and did not know how they got there. 

His boss had told the court that Mr Shoubaki described the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers as ‘God’s will’.

When the trial ended, BA began an internal investigation which eventually found that Mr Jamaluddin had no case to answer.

However, he was still deemed a security risk and unsuitable to fly a jumbo jet.

Explaining the decision to withdraw Mr Jamaluddin’s airside pass, thus ending his BA career, Mr Steeds said: ‘I concluded there was a more than trivial security risk in allowing Samir to operate BA aircraft.

‘I know from many years of working with the Metropolitan Police that releasing an individual without charge does not necessarily mean there are no longer any suspicions.

In some instances, the Government’s policy is to disrupt a plot before it reaches its final stages, in the interests of public safety, even if this means that ultimately there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.

‘I was satisfied on the evidence  that there was more than a trivial security risk in this case, and therefore I could not be satisfied that Samir was suitable to hold a security pass.

My suspicions were not unfounded.’

He was supported by Mr Walsh, who dealt with Mr Jamaluddin’s appeal against the decision. Mr Walsh told the tribunal: ‘In all the circumstances of this case, I agreed with Tim Steeds that BA could not permit Samir to fly BA aircraft.’

The hearing continues.

One thought on “UK Muslim Pilot: "Suspicions Were Not Unfounded"”

  1. I dont fly Emirates, as much as they advertise and even if their hostesses only wear half the veil – so far. I also wish that the Melbourne Cup was still called “the Melbourne Cup” and that the French National Soccer Club “Paris St. Germain” would still belong to the French.

    I dont agree with the sentence: “creeping Islamisation”, the “creeping” should be deleted and replaced with “galopping”.

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