CBI drops Quattrocchi from wanted list, BJP on offensive

April 28th, 2009 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) The CBI’s decision to strike off Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the lone surviving suspect in the Bofors gun payoff case, from its list of wanted persons sparked fresh controversy Tuesday with the BJP accusing the Congress of turning the investigating agency into the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Harsh Bahl said the agency would inform the special judge of a Delhi court, trying the 1987 case of the Rs.640 million payoff for the Swedish howitzer guns, of the decision during the next hearing on April 30.

The 12-year Interpol Red Corner Notice, or lookout notice, against Quattrocchi was taken off from the wanted section of the agency’s website reportedly on the legal advice of Attorney General Milon Banerjee in October last year. It is not known exactly when his name was withdrawn.

According to Banerjee, the investigating agency did not have any basis to keep Quattrocchi’s name listed in the Interpol Red Corner Notice especially when it lost the case for his extradition from Argentina in February 2007.

With the CBI’s move coming into the open Tuesday, just two days before the third round of India’s five phase general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party went on the offensive against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Describing the move as the Congress’ “gift” to Quattrocchi “by the first family of Congress that has been close to him”, BJP general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The appeal of CBI has surpassed all civil norms. What has pained me is the patent use of highest officers. The Congress has been blatantly misusing the CBI.”

His colleague Prakash Javadekar added: “This is the most shocking misuse of the CBI, which has proved it is the Congress Bureau of Investigation. The BJP is taking the matter seriously and taking it to the people.”

The Congress tried to downplay the controversy saying the Bofors case was a dead horse the BJP had been flogging in every election.

“Bofors has been a dead horse which the BJP has tried to flog in several elections, and it has not succeeded,” said Congress spokesperson and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

“The notice issued against Quattrocchi dropped probably due to lack of a case against him in India. The point is there is no main issue pending against him. There is nothing political. It is something which concerns the CBI, the government and Quattrocchi.”

Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said: “The government had no role in the removal of the red corner notice. The CBI acted solely on the advice of the attorney general. It is a politically motivated allegation.”

The case against Quattrocchi, known to be close to the late Rajiv Gandhi, who was prime minister in 1987 when the bribery scandal broke, and his wife Sonia, has taken tortuous twists and turns after he was named in a CBI chargesheet as the conduit for the Bofors bribe in 1999.

But he has has managed to evade interrogation.

The nearest the CBI came to him was in February 2007 when Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on the basis of an Interpol warrant.

But the CBI took time in translating documents that were to be presented in the designated court there and also put up a half-hearted effort towards his extradition. It finally lost the case for his extradition four months later.

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