On Bofors....

After the CBI spent Rs 250 crore on probing Bofors over 24 years, a Delhi court on Friday allowed its plea to withdraw prosecution of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the lone surviving accused in the politically-sensitive case. Terming the investigations in the case as an exercise with no result, chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav chose to close the case against Quattrocchi in larger public interest and subsequently discharged him. This is no guarantee, however, that the last has been heard of the defence scandal, which is said to have led to the Rajiv Gandhi government’s exit in 1989. For, the intervener-advocate, Ajay Aggarwal, said that he would appeal against the order, which held that he had no locus standi in the case. Also the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal order on December 31, 2010, that kickbacks amounting to Rs 41 crore were paid to the late Win Chaddha and Quattroachi and withholding tax is illegal, the case is not fully dead yet. While rejecting Aggarwal’s plea that CBI’s reprieve to Quattrocchi was politically motivated, Yadav said Aggarwal was interested in “attaining cheap publicity” and had no public interest. The court’s decision comes one-and-a-half years after CBI moved an application seeking permission to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi. The CBI said his continued prosecution was “unjustified” in the light of various factors, including the agency’s failed attempts extradite him from Malaysia and Argentina. CBI had in October 2009 moved the trial court for closing of the case after withdrawing the red corner notice against Quattrocchi in April that year. While pronouncing the order, the judge said Rs 250 crore spent so far in the investigations of the case weighed heavily on his mind and became one of the main grounds to allow CBI’s plea.
Chronology of Bofors Howitzer Payoff Scandal
MARCH 24, 1986: A $15-billion contract between the Indian government and Swedish arms company AB Bofors is signed for the supply of over 400 155mm Howitzer field guns
APRIL 16, 1987: Swedish Radio claims Bofors paid kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials to secure the deal which was denied by then PM Rajiv Gandhi
AUG 6, 1987: A JPC is set up to probe the allegations. It submitted its report two years later NOV 1989: With the opposition making the Bofors kickbacks a poll issue, Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress party is voted out of power in the general elections
DEC 26, 1989: Then prime minister VP Singh’s government bars Bofors from entering into any defence contract with India
JAN 22, 1990: CBI registers a complaint in the case, following which Swiss authorities freeze bank accounts of Svenska and AE Services, which allegedly received unauthorised commissions for the deal
MAY 21, 1991: While the case was being investigated, Rajiv Gandhi assassinated
JULY 29-30, 1993: Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who represented Italian fertiliser firm Snam Progetti for years, leaves India to avoid arrest
JAN 21, 1997: After four years of legal wrangles, secret documents running into over 500 pages given to Indian authorities in Berne
JAN 30, 1997: CBI sets up special investigation team for the case
1997: Letters rogatory issued to Malaysia and the UAE seeking arrest of Quattrocchi and former Bofors agent Win Chadha. CBI files a case against Quattrocchi, Chadha, defence secretary SK Bhatnagar, former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo and the Bofors company. Rajiv Gandhi’s name figures as “an accused not sent for trial” as he was assassinated in 1991
MARCH 18, 2000: Chadha comes to India to face trial
SEP 29, 2000: Hindujas issue statement saying funds received by them from Bofors had no connection with the gun deal
OCT 9, 2000: CBI files supplementary chargesheet naming Hinduja brothers as accused
DEC 20, 2000: Quattrocchi arrested in Malaysia, gets bail but is asked to stay in the country AUG-OCT, 2001: Former defence secretary Bhatnagar dies of cancer. Win Chadha dies of a heart attack
FEB 4, 2004: Delhi High Court clears Rajiv Gandhi of involvement in the scandal
MAY 31, 2005: Delhi High Court clears the Hindujas of involvement
FEB 6, 2007: Quattrocchi detained in Argentina on Interpol lookout notice but later released SEPT 29, 2009: Govt tells SC about its decision to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi
DEC 14, 2010: A Delhi court reserves its order on a CBI plea seeking to drop criminal proceedings against Quattrocchi
JAN 3, 2011: An I-T tribunal rules that commission in violation of Indian laws was indeed paid to Quattrochi and Chadha in the gun deal that cost the national exchequer 412.4 million some 23 years ago
MAR 4, 2011: A Delhi court allows CBI to drop all charges against Quattrocchi and to close the case

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