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During the long flight to Rome, Paszkowski somehow felt like he was leaving Canada for good; it made him nostalgic. The lump in his throat grew as he reminisced about his 20 months in Canada. He felt safe and comfortable here, and now it was all being left behind him. When the plane landed at Fiumicino airport near the Italian capital, the hot air hit him with full force after a rather cool morning left behind in Edmonton. He managed to get into a car that looked one short step from the wrecking yard and was passing as a taxi. Arriving at the Hotel Canada, he immediately telephoned Dr. Di Marco, his Italian intelligence contact provided by CSIS. Di Marco soon appeared with an interpreter. The three talked briefly about the mission and Di Marco was insistent that Paszkowski provide full assurance to him that he would keep to himself the top international secrets he would learn. They had dinner together that evening during which little of substance was said. Afterwards, Di Marco handed Paszkowski a scrap of paper on which was scribbled a Rome address and a password which would gain him access.

The following morning at ten o'clock, Paszkowski paused outside an old, run-down building. This was the address Di Marco had given him. He climbed to the third floor and knocked on a door with peeling paint. A man answered and upon hearing the password let him in. He was greeted in English, heavily-accented with German, and led into a larger room where a number of men were already seated and smoking. There were two Sikhs wearing traditional turbans, another pair who looked Italian, Paszkowski and the German. The latter chaired the meeting and greeted them in English as all of them spoke the language with differing levels of fluency. The German spoke of the need for international co-operation and how important the mission was for each of their respective governments. He stressed that the group must work closely together. "Some of the tasks," he said, "might appear strange or even incomprehensible to you. Don't worry about that. Let it be the concern of those who sent you here. Your role is to carry out orders to the letter without asking questions." Everyone sat quietly and listened intently. "The job at hand is with the use of explosives to blow up an Air-India plane in Europe. Lives will be lost but we must not think about that. There are more important matters involved. You will stay in your hotels and wait for further details, which are presently being worked on. Each of you will be supplied with documents allowing you to move freely in Europe, weapons, explosives, money, and detailed instructions. I will meet with each of you personally to supply you with all of these. Wait for me and be prepared for action at any time."

The German finished and asked if there were any questions. Nobody asked anything, so the host declared the meeting over and let them out one by one a few minutes apart.

As Paszkowski was returning to his hotel, his mind was full of what he had just heard. He was to blow up a plane and cause people to die. He started to pull all the threads together. He remembered Maduck stressing the government of Canada's troubles with its Sikh community and that it would be useful to discredit Canadian Sikhs generally. The Air India catastrophe off Ireland, which had killed more than 300 passengers, mostly Canadians, had occurred the previous year. Would this simultaneously do a large favour for the government of India and subdue the Canadian Sikh community as the prime suspects in the Air India crash? It seemed very clear that high-ranking people in these countries and probably others were involved.

The governments of Canada, India, and Italy, or perhaps rogue branches of each, acting in concert, had decided on this preposterous mission and recruited agents like himself to help carry it out. There was no concern for human life; only political objectives mattered. There were two Sikhs in the group, but who knew their real identity or from which side they really came? There were many other unknown factors to know about the mission, but Paszkowski was certain he wanted none of it.

He wondered if Maduck or Beech had known more about this mission. Was it only the Secretary of State, Joe Clark, and high ranking officials at CSIS who knew the full details? It didn't matter now. Paszkowski was attempting in his mind to find a way out of the situation without jeopardizing his personal safety. On one hand, he had the SB after him for becoming an agent for CSIS; on the other, he might well fetch a bullet in the head by an unknown assassin in Rome if he decided to walk out on the whole mission. He already knew too much. If either of those groups failed to stop him, Interpol was always present in the background to return him to prison in West Germany. That, he concluded quickly, could also be his salvation. He decided the safest place for him in the bizarre circumstances would be in a German jail completing the sentence for hijacking. But he had to act promptly. The next morning, after a sleepless night, he found a public payphone and called Rome police headquarters. In a muffled voice, he said, "Ryszard Paszkowski, wanted by Interpol, is staying at the Canada Hotel, Room 252 in Rome, using the name Robert Fisher. He is wanted for hijacking a plane." Knowing the slow moving Italian police quite well, he added the final thought to give real urgency to the matter.

He returned to his hotel room and waited. In the meantime, Di Marco with his interpreter came to check how he was after the meeting a day earlier. Paszkowski assured him he was ready for the mission. As they were talking and sipping coffee in the lobby, three men in plain clothes rushed into the hotel followed by several uniformed policemen with machine guns. After an exchange with the receptionist, the three approached Paszkowski and Di Marco. One of them asked Paszkowski, "Are you Robert Fisher?" When Paszkowski nodded, he produced a copy of Paszkowski's photograph and the arrest warrant issued by Interpol. "You're not Robert Fisher, you are Ryszard Paszkowski who escaped from a German prison and is now being sought by Interpol." Di Marco looked astounded. Paszkowski attempted to look devastated by this disclosure, but was actually delighted that he was about to be arrested. Di Marco tried to negotiate and produced his own documents seeking to avoid Paszkowski's arrest. Fortunately, the others weren't moved and the exchange became heated. Eventually, Paszkowski was handcuffed and taken away by the police. He was pleased for two reasons. First, he was now safe. Second, because of the well-known principle of spy work, if one of the participants in a mission is apprehended, the entire enterprise must be cancelled because there was no guarantee the person wouldn't talk. Paszkowski thought that in this case lives might be saved. He was ready for another chapter in his life, finishing his jail sentence in Germany. However, he wasn't quite ready for his immediate future in the Italian jail.

I've never seen a jail like this in my life. I could keep my own clothes as other inmates did, and I was allowed to have all my luggage with me. They assigned me to a three-person cell. All the cells were open throughout the day and only locked up at night. Every cell had a bedroom, kitchen and a bathroom. There was a television set in the bedroom and inmates could watch T.V. all day and night if they wished. We could buy our own food and prepare meals in our own kitchens. We could also buy a litre of wine and two cans of beer daily. Not bad for a prison!

Drugs were easy to obtain. Even in this prison, there was a flourishing black market. Yet, despite the conveniences and privileges, the Rome jail was a tough place ruled by unwritten laws and jail-house ethics. Frequently, the body of some inmate was taken out on a stretcher. When I asked the Italian inmates what happened, they told me that another squealer had been murdered.

By the time the Italian bureaucracy sorted out my extradition papers to West Germany, two months had passed. I lived quite comfortably in the Rome jail and even made some friends among the inmates. I made it a point to keep my nose clean and stay out of their business, not wanting to leave the place feet first.

A month into my stay, I was called to the administration office where I was shown into a private room. There were several people already there: Di Marco with an interpreter, two men I hadn't seen before, and the older woman from the Canadian embassy who had translated all my conversations when I first went there two years previously. The interpreter introduced the two men I didn't know as CSIS employees. Di Marco started to explain something when one of the men interrupted him and said, "Have you talked to anyone about your trip to Rome from Canada?"

"No, I haven't," I responded.

"Good. We're sorry you ended up in jail, Mr. Paszkowski. The Italian police have already informed West Germany about your arrest and there is nothing we can do to get you out of jail now." He told me to keep quiet about the trip and why I was in Rome. He assured me that once I finished doing my time in West Germany, CSIS would do everything they could to help me return to Canada.

"You really want to go back to Canada, don't you?" he asked.

"Of course, I do!"

"Then keep your mouth shut and don't talk to anybody about the trip and we'll arrange your return to Canada, most likely with a new identity and to a different part of the country. Is it a deal?"

"A deal," I answered and turned to leave the room. Di Marco tried to stop me to explain something, but I ignored him. I didn't want to have anything further to do with him. I decided then to put the Rome episode behind me. I would never understand why the Canadian government would want to be involved in a terrorist attack which would certainly cost human lives. It didn't sit well with what I thought and knew about Canadians. However, I also knew the `brains' at CSIS in Ottawa were the architects of this latest botched plan, and that explained quite a bit.

I wondered what Canadian politicians who condemned terrorist attacks worldwide would say if they found out their own security service was planning to participate in one. Anyway, it was over now. I was pleased the Canadians planned to get me back to Canada eventually, and I wasn't going to be left to fend for myself.

How little he knew!

The same day Paszkowski was arrested in Rom, August 18, 1986, Immigration headquarters in Hull, Operations Branch, sent a telex to the RCMP Headquarters referring to Robert Fisher and stating that: "It has now been learned that his real name is Ryszard Paszkowski, born in Poland on March 4, 1955." The note asks for the RCMP's assistance with furnishing documentary evidence to the Passport Office proving that fraudulent means were used to obtain his Canadian Certificate of Identity so that the document could be cancelled, thus closing the door on the possibility of Paszkowski's return to Canada.


Chapter 10

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