Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombings, was killed Thursday in what police described as a targeted shooting in Surrey, B.C., The Globe & Mail reports.
His son, Jaspreet Singh Malik, confirmed his father’s death in a social media post, as did a Facebook account run by a school founded by the Malik family.
Malik was among three people charged with the Air India bombings on June 23, 1985, which killed 329 people aboard an airliner that exploded off the coast of Ireland, as well as two baggage handlers at the Tokyo airport in another explosion the same day.
The terrorist attack, which was Canada’s worst mass murder, exposed flaws in the country’s security systems and drew attention to Sikh extremism. A public inquiry later blamed a “cascading series of errors” by police, intelligence officers, and air safety regulators.
Malik was acquitted in 2005 along with another suspect, Kamloops sawmill worker Ajaib Singh Bagri. Inderjit Singh Reyat was the sole person convicted in connection with the bombings, first convicted of manslaughter for his role in making the bombs, and later for perjury over his testimony at Malik and Bagri’s trial.
RCMP said in a news release Thursday that a man was killed after a targeted attack in Surrey, but they did not identify the victim. The shooting occurred on the same block as a business that Malik owned.
The RCMP statement said the victim was shot just before 9:30 a.m. on Thursday and died at the scene, despite aid from attending officers and emergency health services.
A burning vehicle was found less than two kilometres away, and police said it was likely used during the shooting. No arrests have been made.
Malik was a Vancouver businessman who owned Papillon Eastern Imports Ltd., a distributor of women’s apparel from Asia.
He spent 4½ years in detention before his acquittal. The judge in the case concluded that the prosecution’s witnesses were not credible.
On Thursday afternoon, police remained on scene photographing evidence and obtaining surveillance footage from neighbouring businesses. Yellow police tape cordoned off Malik’s business, which was located next to a beauty salon, driving school, and auto-detailing shop.
Jaspreet Singh Malik, the son, said in the social media post that his father devoted his life to Sikh teachings of love, honesty, and the betterment of humanity.
“My father’s commitment was to his community and his family, and his goal was to see the immigrant Sikh community thrive through education and financial security,” said the younger Malik, who asked for privacy when contacted by The Globe and Mail.
The post lamented that his father would be seen by the media and police through the trial in which the prosecution had portrayed him as a central figure in a terrorist plot
“I’m not a saint, and I’m not a devil,” Malik told The Globe and Mail in 2005 in an interview shortly after his acquittal. “I’m a human being. I make mistakes, and I try to make good judgments.”
Following his acquittal, Malik lost a long financial court battle with the B.C. government and had to repay millions of dollars in loans that went to cover his legal bills during the Air India trial.
The Crown’s theory was that B.C.-based extremists planned the attack as revenge against the Indian government for ordering the army to raid Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in Amritsar in June 1984.
The Crown maintained the bomb-laden suitcases were loaded onto flights at Vancouver International Airport before one suitcase was transferred to an Air India plane in Toronto. The plane then headed to Montreal to pick up more passengers on its way to Delhi via London.
Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, took to Twitter to say the death of Malik will remind people that questions remain about the Air India bombings.
“The news today of the assassination of Ripudaman Singh Malik should make all of us think of the trauma that lives daily with the families of the 331 people killed in the Air India bombing and the reality that there are still questions about who is responsible for this atrocity,” read Rae’s statement.