New Delhi: The ghost of Bofors pay-off may finally be given a legal burial with the
Government today telling the Supreme Court that it has decided
to withdraw case against Italian Businessmen Ottavio
Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told a bench
headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishanan, that all efforts to
extradite Quattrocchi, an accused in the two-decade-old case
relating to payment of Rs 64 crore as commission in the
Swedish Howitzer deal, have failed.
He said the CBI has taken the decision to close the
case by also taking into account Delhi High Court judgement
which had held that no case of corruption was made out in the
Subramanium said the Government came to the decision
after taking into account all the facts of the case.
The Solicitor General`s statement in the court came
under immediate attack from the BJP and the lawyer who is
pursuing the Bofors case in the Supreme Court while the
Congress Party said that after all the case has to come to a
"Quattrcocchi has been treated by this government as
a son-in-law of this country," advocate Ajay Agrawal, who had
moved the apex court in January, 2006, against the defreezing
of Quattrocchi`s bank account in London, said opposed the
stand of the government and the CBI.
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.
The Solicitor General, who objected to the
description of Quattrocchi as "son-in-law", said the CBI had
tried to get him extradited to India following the Red Corner
Notice issued against him but failed in its efforts.
He said a call had to be taken for the closure of the
case and the CBI and the Centre took into consideration the
February 4, 2004 verdict of the High Court which held that
there was not a rubble of evidence under the Prevention of
Corruption Act and as such no appeal was filed against the
Subramanium said nothing survived in the appeal filed
by Agrawal against the May 2005 verdict of the High Court.
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 BJP attacked the Government`s decision saying the
Congress-led coalition was bailing him out as he "knows too
Citing earlier instances when the UPA government had
allegedly helped the Italian businessman, party spokesman Ravi
Shankar Prasad said, "the CBI was not allowed to file an
appeal against the court order passed in 2005. In Argentina,
an order was passed refusing extradition to Quattrocchi but no
appeal was allowed to be filed again."
BJP ally JD-U also slammed the decision to withdraw
the case against Quattrocchi saying whenever Congress was in
power, it has tried to weaken the issue.
The Congress, however, rejected all the charges saying
the opposition had brought the "phantom" of Bofors often
though the case could not withstand legal scrutiny.
Defending the government`s decision, party spokesman
Manish Tewari said "CBI has reached the conclusion that
nothing can be done legally in the matter any more. People
should respect the agency`s decision".
He dismissed BJP`s claim that Quattrocchi was being
shielded by the government. Attacking BJP for raking up the issue, Tewari said BJP
has been screaming conspiracy since 1987 to 2009.