Bofors: Quattrocchi wins against Indian system



Bofors: Quattrocchi wins against Indian system Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Giving a legal burial, a Delhi court Friday discharged Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi from the two-decade-old Bofors pay offs case, saying the country cannot afford to spend hard-earned money on his extaradition which has already cost Rs 250 crore.

"Can we allow this hard earned money of Aam Aadmi of India to be spent on these type of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them, after almost 25 years of the so called arms deal. The answer would be a big no," ruled Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav in his 73-page order.

"The very question which stares us at our faces is whether it is justified for the government and CBI to continue to spend on the extradition of "Q", which may or may not ultimately happen during his lifetime," the court said allowing the CBI plea to withdraw the case against 70-year-old fugitive Italian.

Quattrocchi, who fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, has never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution.

The court held that "the decision of the CBI, seeking withdrawal of prosecution against Q on the face of it appears to be bonafide and in the larger public interest.

Referring to Quattrocchi as 'Q', CMM Yadav, in his order, said, "Accordingly, the learned Special Prosecutor of CBI is allowed to withdraw prosecution against Q. Consequently, Q stands discharged from this case."

The court accepted the CBI plea noting that two earlier attempts by it to extradite Quattrocchi from two different countries have "miserably failed."

"The other ground taken is that two earlier attempts of CBI in extraditing Q, one in Malaysia and other in Argentina have failed," said the CMM.

Before pronouncing his order, CMM Yadav recited Majrooh Sultanpuri's two famous lines from a Hindi film which apmly indicated the outcome.

"Woh afsana jise anjam tak lana na ho mumkin, use ek khoobsurat more dekar chhorna hi achha. (It's betetr to end a story on a good note in case it cannot be brought to a logical end," said the CMM.

The withdrawal of case by the CBI in the case against Quattrocchi assumes significance as those named in the FIR have been given relief by Delhi High Court earlier.

The High Court on February 4, 2004 had quashed all charges under Prevention of Corruption Act and bribery against Europe-based Hinduja brothers -- S P Hinduja, G P Hinduja and P P Hinduja. The High Court had also given clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi and S K Bhatnagar who were dead.

The High Court on May 31, 2005 had struck down all the proceedings and remaining charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy against the Hinduja brothers and A B Bofors. The verdict was later challenged in the Supreme Court by Agrawal after the CBI failed to file appeal within the mandatory 90 days.

The apex court has admitted his appeal and the matter is pending before it.

Other accused--Martin Ardbo of Bofors and Win Chaddha, the alleged middleman--died during the pendency of the case. In his order today, the CMM, while giving relief to Quattrocchi took into account the CBI argument that his extradition may not be possible in near future in view of the decisions by courts in Malaysia and Argentina.

CBI working in collusion with Quattrocchi: Petitioner

Reacting to the verdict, advocate Ajay K Agrawal, the main petitioner in the case, said, “We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court.”

Perturbed over the court’s judgement, he said, “The CBI has enough evidence against the Italian businessman but it is working in collusion with him.”

He further lamented that if the CBI’s argument of “excessive delay” becomes the basis for a major judgment like this and sustains in future, then amnesty will have to be given to lakhs of people, who have been languishing in Indian jails, against whom the trail is pending in various courts.

Aggarwal also rubbished CBI’s argument that Rs 250 crores has been wasted so far in the case. Quoting a former CBI director, Aggarwal told reporters that so far only Rs 5 crore has been spent and the CBI’s remarks about the same are “superfluous.”

Attacking the judicial system in India, Aggarwal said, “The courts in India have always favoured Quattrochhi. The CBI has been used as a tool by the ruling side and also by the courts to favour the Italian businessman.”

Agrawal, who had opposed the agency's move, had earlier filed the written arguments alleging Massimo Quattrocchi, son of the Italian businessman, has been visiting India "almost every month for 8 to 10 days and still doing a middleman's job as was earlier done by his father."

"The CBI application does not fulfil the three basic requirements that is bonafide, good faith and public interest and that the government and the CBI are in collusion with Quattrocchi and the plea is filed to bail him out and if it is allowed, he will come to India and start his operations of a middleman," Agrawal said in his written submissions.

CBI’s failure to extradite him

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 agency's failed attempts to extradite him.

The agency had failed twice in getting him extradited-- first from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007. He is accused of allegedly receiving a payoff for brokering the Bofors gun deal.

The agency had registered a criminal case on January 20, 1990 to probe who were the beneficiaries of the payoffs in the 1986 deal.

After completing its probe, the agency had filed two charge sheets in the case -- first on October 22, 1999 and the other on October 9, 2000.

The CBI had contended that there was no change in the government's stand on withdrawing the case against Quattrocchi in the wake of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order, which had said that kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal.

"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 nine-page application seeking withdrawal of case.

“Don’t flog a dead horse”

Reacting to the court’s order, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said that the court’s decision must be respected and accepted, adding, “There is no point in flogging a dead horse”.

In his reaction, senior BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad said, “There cannot be closure of the truth”.

With PTI Inputs