This Article is From Apr 25, 2012

Family humiliated for years, says Big B on Bofors whistle-blower's clean chit

Mumbai: The main whistle-blower in the Bofors scam has said, 25 years after the scandal shook India and Sweden, that Amitabh Bachchan's name was planted by Indian investigators in the case.  In an interview to the website thehoot.org,  Sten Lindstrom, the former head of the Swedish policy, admits he was the "Deep Throat" who leaked more than 300 documents to journalist  Chitra Subramaniam who first broke the story. Mr Lindstrom says that Indian investigators during a visit to Sweden in 1990 "planted the Bachchan angle."

"For 25 years, we lived with the humiliation, we were young and could cope. But my parents have not witnessed this clean chit... these developments would have made them happy," reacted the actor in Mumbai today. Wearing a white kurta, Mr Bachchan told reporters, "We said from the beginning we were innocent... but now to have this from the very authority handling the investigation... it makes a difference.

"What compensation can anyone offer? We lived with this for years."  He also said he cannot understand why Mr Lindstrom has offered the clarification on the Bachchans only now.

He added: "I quit politics because I could not get used to it... I left before the Bofors scandal broke... but some people tried to link my exit from politics to it."

Mr Lindstrom has also told Hoot.org that there is no evidence that former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi took any bribes. However, the former police chief says that Mr Gandhi "watched the massive cover-up in India and Sweden and did nothing."

The Bofors case dates back to 1986, when Swiss arms manufacturer Bofors landed a 15 billion dollar contract to supply Howitzer guns to India. A year later, Swiss media began reporting that the company had paid massive kickbacks to Indian politicians and defence officials. Reacting to the reports, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had assured Parliament that that was not the case. The Bofors scandal however cost him the general election in 1989.

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While asserting that there was no evidence of kickbacks to Mr Gandhi, Mr Lindstrom talks about Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was believed to be one of the major players in the Bofors scam. He said the evidence against Mr Quattrocchi was "conclusive" as the bribes paid by Bofors landed in his account. "Nobody in Sweden or Switzerland was allowed to interrogate him," he added. He also suggests that this was orchestrated because of Mr Quattrocchi's closeness to Mr Gandhi.

"The investigation procedure was false... the government had no political will to identify who was behind this," said the Left's Gurudas Dasgupta. The BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad added, "The then police officer has confirmed that the entire government of Rajiv Gandhi has saved Ottavio Quattrocchi... we want answers from the government."

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

Mr Quattrocchi left India in 1993 to avoid being arrested. In March 2011, a Delhi court allowed the CBI to close its criminal case against him after the investigating agency submitted that after 25 years and Rs. 250 crores, it had not been able to get Mr Quattrocchi extradited to India, despite appeals in both Malaysia and Argentina.