An application has been moved before the Supreme Court seeking early hearing in the Rs. 64 crore Bofors pay-off case, alleging collusion between the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the accused persons.
The Application, filed by BJP leader and Advocate Ajay Agrawal, highlights this collusion by pointing out that the Agency did not challenge the Delhi High Court’s order dated 31 May, 2005, wherein all charges against the Europe-based Hinduja brothers were quashed. He contends that the order is “bad in law and lacks jurisdiction”.
The Application justifies his Appeal, contending that it had been filed in public interest as the CBI had failed to do so and also because the Law Ministry had, at that time, not given permission to the Agency. The Petition was admitted in October, 2005, after the CBI failed to approach the Supreme Court within the 90-day deadline after the High Court verdict.
He then goes on to point out that the London bank account of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the alleged middleman in the deal, was defreezed, despite the fact that the then UPA Government and the CBI were aware that his Appeal has been admitted by the Apex Court. He also alleged that the CBI did not bother to inform the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which was seized of the Quattrocchi matter, about its move to defreeze the accounts.
“That this is one case in the history of independent India wherein Gandhi family run Central Governments trying to scuttle the investigation and misleading the Courts and abusing the Judicial process. Even the Senior Law Officer of the Government including Attorney General of India, Solicitor General of India and Additional Solicitor Generals. These all Law Officers were giving solicit opinion to save the accused person and trying their best, that the accused get the kickbacks as their Commission from Bofors which is hard earned money of poor people of the Country. Much evidence is on record that one of the accused namely Ottavio Quattrocchi was very close to Smt. Sonia Gandhi and other family members,” the Petition alleges.
It claims that the Bofors scam was a more serious crime than has been considered over the years, and that the “case has to be decided and guilty be punished so that it would have deterrent effect on the society and such type of criminal acts be not repeated in future”.
The Rs. 1,437 crore deal between India and the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm Howitzer guns for Indian Army went through on 24 March, 1986. Almost a year later, the Swedish Radio had claimed that the Company had bribed top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
Almost three years after the revelation, on 22 January, 1990, the CBI had registered an FIR for the offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery under the IPC and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and Hinduja brothers.
The first charge-sheet in the case was filed in October, 1999 against Chadda, Quattrocchi, the then Defence Secretary S.K. Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors Company. A supplementary charge-sheet was filed against Hinduja brothers in October, 2000.
Quattrocchi was, however, discharged from the case in March, 2011, with the special CBI Court observing that the country cannot afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which has already cost it Rs. 250 crore. He passed away on July 13, 2013.