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Row over sale of Hitlerís fighter

Gulbarga, Dec. 1 (PTI): A vintage fighter plane used by Adolf Hitlerís air force during World War II is at the centre of controversy over its disposal by an educational institute.

The Hyderabad Karnataka Education Societyís (HKES) PDA Engineering College, which had kept the aircraft since 1961 as an instruction kit, reportedly sold it to a private collector in Bangalore recently.

The Messerchmitt BF-109, used by Hitlerís air force in the Fuhrerís Operation Sealion was traded for another aircraft, a vintage car and an antique motorcycle after the education societyís convening council approved the proposal.

Gulbarga district superintendent of police Alok Kumar said the police had taken up the case for investigation and were trying to trace the aircraft, which commands a huge price for its antique value, following a complaint lodged by former minister S.K. Kantha and a letter by the Karnataka government.

He said the collector had earlier informed the police that he had bought the aircraft for exhibition purposes and had not received any documents from the seller.

The plane was, however, not found at the place mentioned in Bangalore, Kumar said. The police were trying to contact the buyer to trace the aircraft, he added. No documents relating to the aircraft had been found so far, either from the institute or from the collector, said the police official.

Local people believed that the aircraft belonged to the Gulbarga Corporation, but there are no documents to support this observation.

Kantha, who alleged the aircraft had been illegally exchanged for antiques of lesser value, said the IAF training centre had approached the instituteís management to acquire it, not only for its antique value, but also to study the light material used in the aircraft by the Germans for building it. The instituteís management, however, strongly denied the charge.

A British collector had reportedly tried to acquire the aircraft, which experts say could easily fetch Rs 7.5 crore.

The air force centre at Bidar has asked the state government to prevent any move to take the aircraft out of the country.

The aircraft, with the distinctive swastika mark on it, is said to have been given to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the Royal Air Force in 1941 as a war trophy. It was kept in a public garden in Gulbarga till 1961, after which it was shifted to the engineering college.

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