CBI to Stop Prosecution against Quattrocchi

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) The over two-decade-old Bofors pay-off case is headed for a quiet burial with the government Tuesday informing the Supreme Court that it had decided to stop all prosecution against Italian businessmen Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the case relating to the alleged payment of Rs.640 million as commission in the howitzer deal.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishanan that all efforts to extradite Quattrocchi had failed.

He said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had taken the decision to close the case by also taking into account a Delhi High Court judgement of 2004 that had held that no case of corruption was made out in the Bofors deal.

Subramaniam's statement in the court came under attack from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which criticised the ruling Congress party for easily letting the businessman off the hook.

"Quattrocchi has always had high connections and that's why he has always been safe," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

"This is very unfortunate. Quattrocchi knew too much and he had people to save him," Prasad added

The Congress, on the other hand, said the case had never stood the test of law and the government's decision was the natural corollary.

"Bofors is a ghost or a phantom that the opposition brings up repeatedly for political purposes," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters here.

"Whenever the matter went before a court of law either in India or abroad it never stood the test of law," he maintained, adding: "I think the matter should be brought to a close."

The case against Quattrocchi, known to be close to the late Rajiv Gandhi, who was prime minister in 1987 when the bribery scandal broke, and his wife Sonia, has taken tortuous twists and turns after he was named in a CBI chargesheet in 1999 as the conduit for the Bofors bribe.

He was accused by the CBI of receiving millions of dollars in commissions for helping to fix the $1.4 billion gun deal in the mid-1980s.

CBI officials privately admitted that it was merely a question of time before the government decided to stop all prosecution against Quattrocchi for his alleged involvement in the case, especially after the agency decided to strike off his name from its list of wanted persons in April.

"It's taken longer than usual but this was the inevitable step," said a senior CBI official.

The 12-year Interpol Red Corner Notice, or lookout notice, against Quattrocchi was taken off from the wanted section of the agency's website reportedly on the legal advice of Attorney General Milon Banerjee last year.

According to Banerjee, the investigating agency did not have any basis to keep Quattrocchi's name listed in the Interpol Red Corner Notice especially when it lost the case for his extradition from Argentina in February 2007.

Till date Quattrocchi has managed to evade interrogation.

The nearest the CBI came to him was in February 2007 when Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on the basis of an Interpol warrant.

But the CBI took time in translating documents that were to be presented in the designated court there and also put up a half-hearted effort towards his extradition. It finally lost the case for his extradition four months later.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has said that the case had proved to be an "embarrassment" for the government.

"The Quattrocchi case is an embarrassment for the government of India. We have tried to extradite him from Malaysia. We have tried to extradite him from Argentina. We have failed. The court says we do not have a strong case," Manmohan Singh had said during the midst of the general elections in April.


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Comment on this article

  • shahnawaz kukkikatte, dubai/udupi

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    Why to book and implicate some one not from our country? If Q has taken or given kick backs for the bofours deal, its just because of our politican and economic system. Some one from India asked for kickback and got it. What Q did was an commercial act and business. The real culprits are we Indians. Real culprits must be booked and punished. Pls see jagore.com

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  • Abdul Rahman, Dubai

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    Gladson, I agree with your views.In India like any other caste, politicians belong to a single class, they all are brothers and sisters. They try to make us fools and a few people, like Mr.NAGESH NAYAK here, dance to their tunes in perfect harmony.

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  • KS Bhat, Peruvai vil., Bantwal Tq. / KAZAKHSTAN

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    Gladson, Brahmavarn has written excellently. In this particular case, It was quite open [& not a secret] long ago that AE services of Ottavio Quattrocchi has received approx. Rs. 64 crores equivalent [revealed with documents by Swiss bank & in Swiss court] as commission from Bofors for securing the Bofors deal thru' Rajiv Gandhi's Govt. It was Rajiv Gandhi's Govt which made a law that no commission should be paid by the supplier's to their agents/middle-men for getting Govt. contracts and the same Govt. was caught with the same offence.

    Our successive govt's could not secure that money from Swiss Bank and what is the use of trying to get Ottavio Quattrocchi now when the money has already gone out as the freeze of the accounts were lifted long ago? It is like closing the fort gates after the place has been looted off. Further, as I remember reading that to get back this Rs. 64 Crores bribe money, we have spent more than Rs. 200 crores in Bofors Investigation starting from the JPC [Joint Parliamentary Committee] installed by Rajiv Govt to cover up the scandal. This is the state of affairs of our loving India.

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  • Balakrishna T. Shetty, Palladakody/Mangalore/Riyadh

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    This is a right time to close this case, our high commander Sonia Gandhi is on full power. Indeed Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi is from Italy, our Sonia also from Italy. If you would like to close this case now, I want know that how much money and time you have wasted behind this case? Why you were stretched this case since 20 years. You could close this case when Rajeev Ghandi was assassinated.

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  • Rajesh Rao, Mangalore

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    Shame on congress for letting this ITALIAN arms dealer get away without punishment by scuttling the probe at various stages. Nothing better could have been expected in this matter. Congress being at the helm of afairs of the country is interested in giving a burial to BOFORS in hurry. The bofore spectre can again raise at the time of next election. I am also perplexed - why BJP let this crook off the hook?

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  • rajesh, mangalore/dubai

    Wed, Sep 30 2009

    madamji ki jai..).god save our country..jai hind

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  • nagesh nayak, bangalore

    Tue, Sep 29 2009

    Hi Henry Misquith, Why you worried . Why BOFORS case should be closed. Then close all the cases like sikh massacre, gujarath voilence, orissa case etcc..will you agree . You want to clsoe the case only related to ITALY. Do not comment silly. JAI HO.

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  • raj , Mangalore

    Tue, Sep 29 2009

    There is no surprise in this news, we all know that we have queen from Italy ruling our country with a puppet prime minister, we have respect for her decision.

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  • Jossie, Bajpe, Dubai

    Tue, Sep 29 2009

    Gladson, your views (all of them) are highly sensible, non-partisan and witty. Keep writing. We enjoy a lot.

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  • Gladson, Brahmavar

    Tue, Sep 29 2009

    This was long overdue. When CBI has repeatedly failed to complete cases against criminals, people involved in high profile cases well within India, it was too much too expect from them to bring a foreigner under the rule of law and prosecute him. People against Congress may see its hand in this step and people supporting Congress may feel that law has taken its own course. But the underlying truth is that in India you can get aways with any crime, if you have political connections and bucks to spend.

    Whether BJP or anyone has right to criticize anyone, when all of the Indian politicians have twisted and turned law as per their whimps and fancies time and again. We have had so many scams, we have had so many criminal cases involving politicians. How many of them have really been allowed to run and see a positive end? The case relating to Sikh masscre, financial scams, the cases in Babri Masjid-related issues, the infamous coffin scam (we even do politics with coffins. Great culture!). Tell me which party is not accused of using law for its gain? Congress might not have wanted the arrest of Quattrochi. True! because it had a lot of grey shades. But if willed, BJP could have arrested him and prosecuted during its term. Even it did not, which clealy tells that all politicians are same, only some wear 'dhoti' while a few others wear 'cheddi', a few are 'white' like the painted graves and a few others are saffron. But no ideological differences at all. Only colour matters in India.

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    Tue, Sep 29 2009

    Bury the ghost of BOFORS forever and move on..good that case is closed and we don't have to hear about it in the next elections. God save India & Indians.

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