Bofors kickbacks scandal: Will Quattrocchi be let off?

New Delhi: The CBI today pleaded before a Delhi court that the ruling of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in Bofors pay offs case is "nothing new" and its application for withdrawing the proceedings against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi should be allowed. It also postponed the hearing of the case to January 6.
(Read: Quattrocchi, Chadha got Bofors kickbacks, says IT Tribunal)

Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra, appearing for CBI, said that the findings of ITAT had been mentioned in a chargesheet filed by it in the over two-decade-old Bofors case. (Read: The Bofors case timeline)

"I am not disputing what the tribunal has said. That is the case of prosecutor (CBI) also and it is mentioned in the chargesheet. There is nothing new," Malhotra told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav.

He further said that the court should decide CBI's plea for withdrawing the case without going into its merits and that it should only consider whether the application has been filed bonafide or not.

"There is no need for the court to go into the merits of the case. The court should look only whether there is a bonafide intention on the part of CBI or not. Merits has no relevance in this case," he said.

The ASG, at the beginning of the proceedings, pleaded for withdrawal of proceedings against 70-year-old Quattrocchi, saying it has got no fresh instructions from the government in the wake of the recent ITAT order.

As soon as proceeding began, Supreme Court advocate Ajay Agarwal, who has challenged the CBI move, contended that the matter be re-looked into in view of the ITAT's order.

Yadav then asked Malhotra whether it has received any fresh instructions on the issue.

Malhotra replied that no fresh instructions have been given.

The ITAT order, which had said that kickbacks of Rs 41 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal, was placed before the court.

Agarwal submitted that Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily had made a statement saying that the government will examine the issue afresh in light of ITAT order.

The court after hearing Agarwal's contentions asked the ASG about the stand of the government.

"I would like to know your comments on Law Minister's statement," CMM Yadav said.
       
Malhotra, however, said that he is not aware of any such statement and the application for withdrawal of proceedings against Quattrocchi was filed after examining all aspects of the case.

The court had earlier reserved its order on CBI's plea seeking withdrawal of criminal proceedings against Quattrocchi, the sole surviving accused in the politically-sensitive case.
       
Agarwal, who has been pursuing the case in the Supreme Court and had approached the trial court against the CBI's move to seek a closure of the case, had contended that the government and the agency were trying to close the case despite having sufficient evidence against Quattrocchi.
    
Justifying its closure report, the CBI had earlier contended that it was difficult to secure presence of Quattrocchi for prosecution and that all other accused were either dead or charges against them had been quashed by the Delhi High Court.
       
The CBI had failed on two occasions in its attempt to get Quattrocchi extradited -- first from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007.
       
Last November, the agency had asked the Interpol to take Quattrocchi's name off the Red Corner notice list.