Zee Media Bureau
Rome: The death of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, one of the accused in the Rs 64 crore Bofors corruption scandal, following a heart attack in Milan on Saturday sparked a war of words between the Congress and the BJP.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Quattrocchi was a "ghost" created by BJP and that charges against him had been quashed during NDA rule.
"I don`t understand why Congress should react to the death of somebody who has been a ghost created by BJP. Somebody has died, his family deserves condolences," Singhvi told a news channel.
Singhvi said it was in 2004 during BJP-led rule that the Delhi High Court had quashed the charges against Quattrocchi and the government of the day had not filed any appeal against that ruling.
Responding to Singhvi’s accusations, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar, dismissed his charges saying the ghost was created because Congress was "hosting" him.
"...The ghost was not created by BJP but by VP Singh and if we had created the ghost, it is because you were hosting it," Javadekar said.
Ottavio Quattrocchi represented Italian petrochemicals firm Snamprogetti and was accused of being one of the middleman in the Bofors scandal.
He was also said to be close to the Nehru- Gandhi family, and this fuelled speculation about his rise as a power broker between New Delhi and international businesses.
The Bofors scam relates to a March 1986 deal between the Indian Government and Swedish arms company Bofors for the supply of 410 155mm Howitzer field guns worth about 285 to 286 million dollars.
A year later, news broke that Bofors had allegedly paid kickbacks worth Rs. 64 crore to top Indian politicians and officials to secure the deal.
The scandal hurt the reputation of Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister then.
The opposition parties made Bofors an issue in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections and Gandhi was voted out of power.
Quattrocchi was accused of being a conduit between Bofors and Indian politicians who allgedly received kickbacks for the deal.
He left India in 1993 to avoid being arrested and never returned. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigated and tracked Quattrocchi for years, but never found enough evidence to nail him.
In January 2011, a Delhi court made scathing remarks about the CBI’s investigation and said the agency hadn’t moved "an inch" in 25 years of investigation.
The agency failed twice to have him extradited: in Malaysia in 2002, and then in Argentina in 2007.
The CBI was allowed to close its investigation in 2011 and charges against Quattrocchi were dropped on March 4 that year.
No person has ever been convicted in the Bofors scandal.
Local media reports said that his funeral will take place on Monday.
With Agency Inputs