Bofors: CBI seeks withdrawal of case against `Q`
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 04, 2011, 21:11
New Delhi: Pressing for closure of Bofors pay-offs case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the CBI on Tuesday contended before a Delhi Court there was "nothing new" in the ITAT order that would obstruct the withdrawal of the over two-decade-old criminal proceedings.

"I am not disputing what the tribunal has said. That is the case of prosecutor (CBI) also and it is mentioned in the chargesheet. There is nothing new," Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav.

The court, which was to pass its order on the politically sensitive case, started hearing arguments again after Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Agarwal submitted that the matter be looked into afresh in the light of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal's order yesterday that kickbacks of Rs 41 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal.

The court, which initially expressed reservation on taking into account ITAT's order saying that it was passed by different forum and for different reason, agreed to hear the contentions of the CBI again as well as that of Agarwal who is opposing the investigating agency's application.

Initiating the arguments, Malhotra, on behalf of the CBI, said that it has not got any fresh instruction from the government pertaining to the withdrawal of case against 70-year-old Quattrocchi in light of the tribunal's order.

He further said that the court should decide the CBI's plea for withdrawing the case without going into its merits and that it should only consider whether the application has been filed "bonafide, in good faith and in public interest".

"There is no need for the court to go into the merits of the case. The court should look only whether there is a bonafide intention on the part of CBI or not. Merits has no relevance in this case," he said.

The ITAT order, which had said that kickbacks were paid to late Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal, was placed before the court.

Countering CBI's arguments, Agarwal submitted that Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had yesterday made a statement that the government will examine the issue afresh in the light of ITAT order.

At this, the CMM asked the ASG about the government's stand."I would like to know your comments on Law Minister's statement," CMM Yadav said.

Malhotra, however, said that he was not aware of any such statement and the application for withdrawal of the proceedings against Quattrocchi was filed after examining all aspects of the case.

The court, which heard the case for over three hours, adjourned till January 6 the proceedings when Agarwal expressed his inability to continue in view of his mother's sudden illness.

During the arguments, Agarwal alleged that the CBI is trying to protect Quattrocchi as he has always been "very close" to the family of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

"There is no bonafide, public interest and good faith behind the CBI's decision to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi," he said.

The CBI had registered a criminal case on January 20, 1990 to probe who were the beneficiaries of the pay-offs in the 1986 Bofors gun deal.

After completing its probe, the agency filed two chargsheets in the case first on October 22, 1999 and the second one on October 9, 2000.

Reading out the excerpts of book -- 'Who owns CBI-The Naked Truth' -- by retired CBI officer B R Lall, he claimed that the Italian businessman and his wife Maria was having a very proximate relationship with the Gandhis and that they used to meet very frequently.

The CBI had, in October 2009, sought permission of the court to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi, saying that his continued prosecution was "unjustified" in the light of various factors including the failed attempts of CBI to extradite him.

"The continuance of prosecution against Quattrocchi will be unjustified. It is considered expedient in the interest of justice that the proceedings against him should not be continued and be withdrawn," the CBI had pleaded in its 9-page application.

Quattrocchi has never appeared before any court in the country.

CBI had failed on two occasions in its attempt to get Quattrocchi extradited -- first from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007.

However, the plea of the investigating agency was opposed by Agarwal.

Agarwal, who has been pursuing the case in the Supreme Court and had approached the trial court against CBI's move to seek a closure of the case, contended the Centre and the agency were trying to close the case despite having sufficient evidence against Quattrocchi.

The plea was countered by CBI which said it was difficult to secure presence of Quattrocchi for prosecution and moreover, all other accused are either dead or charges against them have been quashed by the Delhi High Court.

Besides Agarwal, Nirdhan Nishulk Kanooni Sahayata Saimiti, an NGO, had also filed an application objecting to the CBI's move for the withdrawal of the case.


First Published: Tuesday, January 04, 2011, 21:11

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