Bofors deal did not bar agents: CBI

Bofors deal did not bar agents: CBI

All efforts to extradite Quattrocchi failed

The CBI, which seeks to give a legal burial to the Bofors gun bribery case, on Saturday argued that there was no provision barring employment of agents in the purchase of Bofors guns over two decades ago.

The agency, in its application before a Delhi court, has asked for the closure of the Bofors payoff case against Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman known to be close to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

This is contrary to the long-held view that middlemen should not have been involved in the arms deal, which later became a controversy following allegations of involvement of a host of go-betweens, including Quattrocchi and Indian middleman Win Chadda.

In its plea to the chief metropolitan magistrate, the investigating agency said all efforts to extradite Quattrocchi for facing the trial here had failed.

Agency version

Justifying its decision to close the case against the Italian businessman, the CBI said the employment of agents was not prohibited when the government signed the deal with the Swedish company in 1986.

“Even though there is an undertaking by A B Bofors prior to entering into the contract that they do not have any representative/agent specially employed in India, I notice that the original contract between the company and the government does not provide for any prohibition on employment or non-employment of Indian and foreign agents,” Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra contended in the application.

The court will hear arguments on October 9 to decide dropping Quattrocchi’s name from the case. The 69-year-old Italian businessman is the lone surviving suspect in the case.
Turned into a political football over the last two-decades, the CBI was seen to be playing a politically correct role in the case. In 1993 when the Narasimha Rao-led Congress government was at the Centre, Quattrocchi had left the country without being questioned by the CBI even once. Interestingly, a Swiss court had then intimated the agency that the suspected Bofors account in Switzerland was linked to Quattrocchi.
The alleged Rs 64-crore payoff in the Bofors deal surfaced in a broadcast of the Swedish Radio in 1987, with the CBI filing an FIR in the case in 1990.