Bofors case gets another burial

Bofors case gets another burial

Failing twice to extradite Quattrocchi cited as reason for ending probe

Ottavio QuattrocchiAppearing before a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice K G  Balakrishnan, solicitor general Gopal Subramanium said: “The CBI has failed in its move to extradite him, as the foreign courts wanted evidence against him.’’

Praying the court to dismiss the petition pending before it, Subramanium said the CBI had filed to produce tangible evidence against Quattrocchi before Malaysian and Argentinian courts where extradition cases were on against the Italian businessman.
Foreign courts

The foreign courts, the solicitor general pointed out, wanted to know the offence committed by Quattrochhi and were not satisfied that he allegedly received a commission from the gun manufacturer.

Subramanium said the Delhi High Court had in its judgment in February 2004 discharged all the accused persons in the Bofors scam case and the criminal case before the lower court will come up for hearing on October 3.  However, petitioner Ajay Agrawal submitted that notice had been issued to the government on his petition and that he should be heard before a decision was taken.

The Supreme Court fixed December 11-12 for arguments on the petition in which Agrawal, a lawyer, had sought directions  to the government to freeze Quattrocchi’s accounts in London as they allegedly contained the kickback money.

This month, the CBI had submitted before the lower court that it intended to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi after failing to extradite him and withdrawing the red corner notice against him.

Earlier, Quattrocchi was declared a proclaimed offender as he did not appear to face trial and, as a result, charges could not be framed.

Quattrocchi is accused of receiving bribe as a middleman in the purchase of artillery from Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors  in 1986 for the Indian Army. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The CBI had registered an FIR  on January 22, 1990, three years after Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, claimed that A B Bofors had paid kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials to secure the Rs 1,437-crore gun deal.

The Bofors trail

Apr 16, 1987 : Alleged payoffs in the Bofors deal surfaces in a broadcast of Swedish Radio.

Jan 22, 1990 : CBI registers FIR.

1997 : Swiss banks release some 500 documents after years of legal wrangling. CBI files a case against Ottavio Quattrocchi, arms dealer Win Chadha, also naming Rajiv Gandhi, defence secretary S K Bhatnagar among others.

Oct 22, 1999 : CBI files first charge sheet in the case naming Chadha, Quattrochhi, Bhatnagar, former Bofors Chief Martin Ardbo and Bofors Company.

Oct 9, 2000 : CBI files supplementary charge sheet naming Hinduja brothers — Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand as accused.

2003: Two British Bank accounts of alleged middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi are frozen by a high court order on request of the government.

Feb 4, 2004  : Delhi High Court gives clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi under Prevention of Corruption Act.

May 31, 2005 : Charges against Hinduja brothers — Shrichand, Gopichand and Prakash quashed.

Dec, 2005: B Datta, the then Additional Solicitor General requests the British Government that two British bank accounts of Quattrocchi be de-frozen on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Jan 16, 2006: Supreme Court directs the government to ensure that Quattrocchi does not withdraw money from the accounts.

Jan 16, 2006: CBI claims in an affidavit before the apex court that they were still pursuing extradition orders for Quattrocchi.

Jan 23, 2006: CBI admits that around Rs 21 crore in the two accounts have already been withdrawn.

Feb 6, 2007: Quattrocchi detained in Argentina but news of his detention released by CBI only on February 9.

Feb 7, 2007: Interpol informs CBI about Quattrocchi’s detention.

Feb 13, 2007: CBI does not mention the fact of his detention to the apex court. Admits later that it had the information then.

Feb 26, 2007: Quattrocchi released on bail.

Mar 2, 2007 : CBI sends a two-member team — Director Prosecution S K Sharma and Superintendent of Police Keshav Mishra — to assist in fighting the extradition case.

Mar 7, 2007 : The CBI submits a 250-page plea for extradition of Quattrocchi to the Argentinian Foreign Office.

Jun 4, 2007: The two-member team goes again to give final touches ahead of the extradition trial of Quattrocchi.

Jun 7, 2007: Extradition trial begins in El Dorado

Jun 8, 2007: The court in El Dorado rejects India’s extradition request of Quattrocchi.
nOctober, 2008:  Attorney General Milon Banerjee opines that CBI can withdraw Red Corner Notice against Quattrocchi.

Nov 25, 2008 :  Red Corner Notice withdrawn.

Sep 8, 2009  :  CBI seeks two weeks time from trial court for exploring options against Quattrocchi after withdrawal of Red Corner Notice.

Sep 29, 2009 :  Centre tells Supreme Court about its decision to withdraw case against Quattrocchi.