This Article is From Mar 04, 2011

Bofors: CBI allowed to close Quattrochi case

New Delhi: A Delhi court has allowed the CBI to close its criminal case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochi who was believed to be one of the major players in the Bofors scam.

The CBI said that after 25 years and 250 crores, it had not been able to get Mr Quattrocchi extradited to India, despite appeals in both Malaysia and Argentina. He left India in 1993 to avoid being arrested.

In 1986, Swiss arms manufacturer Bofors landed a 15 billion dollar contract to supply Howitzer guns to India. Mr Quattorchi allegedly served as the middleman in a deal that saw massive kickbacks allegedly paid by Bofors to Indian politicians and defence officials.

After Swiss media began reporting a year later that the company had paid massive kickbacks to politicians and defence officials, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assured Parliament that was not the case. However, the Bofors scandal cost him the general election in 1989.

In 1990, when the BJP-led NDA was in power, the CBI filed a complaint in the case. The charges against him included serving as a conduit for bribes. Others named in the CBI case included Mr Quattrocchi's wife, Maria, and Win Chadha, who was Bofors' representative in India. Mr Chadha died in 2001.

An advocate named Ajay K Agrawal has been urging the court that the CBI must continue with its inquiry. Mr Agrawal says he will challenge today's verdict in the Delhi High Court.

Judge Vinod Yadav said today, "We cannot allow such cases to go on forever. The figure of Rs 250 crore which is estimated to have been spent on this case, was weighing heavily on my mind... I believe this is an exercise that will not yield any results... for how long can we let the hard earned money of the common man be spent on this case?"

The CBI's investigation has been attacked repeatedly by the Opposition, which believes that the highest members of the Congress pressured the agency to avoid bringing Mr Quattrocchi back to India because of his alleged ties to Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi.

First in Malaysia in 2002, and then in Argentina in 2007, the CBI lost two appeals to have Mr Quattrochhi extradited. Experts said the CBI's homework and presentation in courts in both countries was shoddy. In 2008, India said it no longer needed a look-out notice for the businessman, essentially signaling that the case against him had fizzled out. Bank accounts that were frozen in London that proved Mr Quattrocchi had millions of euros that he may have found tough to explain were "unfrozen" with India's consent after the CBI said it had not been able to link the money to payments related to Bofors.