British oil boss reveals how he was DANGERED in India alongside ‘very serious criminals’ after he was caught using a satellite phone during a yoga retreat in the Himalayas
- Fergus MacLeod was arrested in the Valley of Flowers National Park, India
- Saudi Aramco exec was found with satellite phone – illegally in the country
- The 62-year-old oil boss says he spent a week in jail in Chamoli
- Satellite phones were banned after use in the 2008 Mumbai attacks
A British oil boss has revealed how he was jailed alongside hardened criminals in India after taking a banned satellite phone on a yoga retreat.
Fergus MacLeod, who works for the oil company Saudi Aramco, says he spent a week in an Indian prison along with some ‘very serious’ convicts after accidentally breaking the country’s strict rules.
Fergus MacLeod (pictured), head of Investor Relations at Saudi Aramco, was arrested after he was found with a satellite phone while on vacation in Valley of Flowers National Park. Satellite Phones Are Illegal For Foreigners To Use In India
MacLeod, head of Investor Relations for the company, the world’s largest oil exporter, says he was arrested this summer at a hotel in a UNESCO heritage site called Valley of Flowers National Park in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.
The 62-year-old says police took him away from the retreat after he was found with a satellite phone. It is illegal for foreigners to use satellite phones while in India. The phone type was banned after terrorists used it in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 175 people.
Anyone who is not from India must request permission from the government to use the special type of telephone that uses satellites to pick up signals instead of terrestrial towers.
MacLeod was arrested on July 12 and was held in prison in Chamoli town until July 18. The director, who was on holiday with friends, including some colleagues from Saudi Aramco, said he was treated well during the ordeal.
Officers detained Mr MacLeod after he turned on and off the satellite phone in his hotel room, but claimed he hadn’t used it.
Authorities were then able to pick up the phone’s coordinates before arresting him.
Mr MacLeod, who has been leading investor relations at the oil giant since 2017, told the… Financial times he was unaware of the ban.
The Saudi Aramco boss was at a UNESCO-listed yoga retreat called Valley of Flowers National Park, in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Stock image of an adult meditating
He also said he successfully passed through two airports in the country without being stopped by security personnel. He claims he legally bought the phone in the UK in 2017 for personal use.
He later used it when traveling through the Saudi Arabian desert in an emergency.
Mr MacLeod added that although he was treated well by lawyers during the detention period, his request to seek legal advice was rejected. He was also unable to contact family.
He said: “It was a terrifying place and a very traumatic experience, where I was in a communal cell with long-term prisoners who had committed very serious crimes.”
A police officer in Chamoli, Narendra Singh Rawat, confirmed to the FT that Mr MacLeod had been arrested and had ‘accidentally’ carried the satellite phone.
While incarcerated, he tried to get in touch through a State Department helpline, adding that while the government was “sympathetic,” no “meaningful action” had been taken.
The oil director was eventually released after his friends paid his bail. Despite this, he was able to leave the country until after a month-end court hearing on July 27, where he pleaded guilty and paid the fine of just £10 ($12), or Rs1,000.
Satellite phones (pictured left) use satellites to pick up signals instead of terrestrial towers. The Indian government made it illegal for foreigners to use the phones in the country after they were used in the deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008 (pictured right)
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it was “providing consular assistance to a British man in India” but did not provide further details.
Mr. MacLeod is one of the most senior western executives at Aramco, which is based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
The PPE graduate of Oxford University joined the company and moved to Saudi Arabia in 2017, a few years before the oil company became one of the most valuable companies in the world, just behind tech company Apple.