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British businessman jailed after bringing phone on yoga retreat

Tom Wood

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| Last updated 

British businessman jailed after bringing phone on yoga retreat

A British businessman was held in jail in India earlier this year after he brought a satellite phone into a yoga retreat.

Fergus MacLeod, who works for global oil behemoth Saudi Aramco in a senior role, says that he was forced to spend a week in an Indian jail after they discovered that he’d brought the phone with him to the retreat, which is tucked away in the mountains of the Himalayas.

Now, it wasn’t because he was messing with everyone vibes or not giving himself over to a full technological detox that he was locked up.

After all, there are some strange laws in this world, but few of them relate to behaviour at a yoga retreat. Instead, it was the type of phone that he’d brought with him.

Fergus MacLeod. Credit: Aramco
Fergus MacLeod. Credit: Aramco

You see, phones that use satellites instead of transmitter towers are controlled in India.

That’s been the law ever since such devices were used by terrorists to plot a large-scale attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Mr MacLeod says that he wasn’t aware of the ban but has owned the phone for a while because of his work in often remote parts of the world where satellite signal might help where normal phone reception fails.

The 62-year-old told the Financial Times that he was taken from his hotel room in the Valley of Flowers national park in Uttarakhand and detained in a prison.

During this time, he says he was kept ‘in a communal cell with long-term prisoners who had committed very serious crimes’.

The law states that if you’re not from India you must ask the government for permission to use such a phone whilst in the country.

The yoga retreat was in the Uttarakhand area of India. Credit: EyeEm/Alamy
The yoga retreat was in the Uttarakhand area of India. Credit: EyeEm/Alamy

MacLeod was arrested on July 12 and held in the prison until July 18.

He says that he was treated well before eventually being bailed out by his friends that he was on holiday with, which included some Saudi Aramco colleagues.

The Times of India reports that police ‘received information about a foreigner using [a] banned satellite phone inside Valley of Flowers’ before searching and finding MacLeod the next day.

He was questioned before being sent to ‘judicial custody’.

MacLeod claims that he turned on the device in his hotel but didn’t use it, but authorities were able to use the co-ordinates of the device to find him.

He said: “It was a frightening place and a highly traumatic experience.”

MacLeod was held in the jail for six days after being kicked out of the retreat. Credit: Pexels
MacLeod was held in the jail for six days after being kicked out of the retreat. Credit: Pexels

The oil exec also claims that he tried to contact the Foreign Office, but whilst they were ‘sympathetic’ they did not take any ‘meaningful action’ to free him.

Eventually, he was released but wasn’t allowed to leave the country until July 27 where he pleaded guilty and paid a fine that amounted to about £10.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We provided consular support to a British man in India.”

Featured Image Credit: Aramco/Shutterstock

Topics: World News, UK News, Technology

Tom Wood
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