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Court allows closure of Bofors case, relief for Quattrocchi

Friday March 04, 2011 09:14:42 PM, IANS

New Delhi: A Delhi court Friday closed the Rs.640 million kickbacks case related to the 1986 Bofors gun deal on a plea by the CBI, dropping criminal charges against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the only accused still alive in one of the country's biggest scandals and whom India has repeatedly failed to extradite.

Accepting the Central Bureau of Investigation's closure report and observing that too much time and money had gone into it, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav observed: "At this moment we have to end the case, therefore I allow the CBI plea to close the case."

The court, in its 73 page judgement, said: "I think the CBI has moved this application to close this case after applying their mind, therefore there is no need of wasting public money in continuing the investigation."

"Heavy amount of money wasted on the investigation into this case and the case has not moved a inch for the past 25 years."

"Can we allow this hard earned money of aam aadmi (common man) of India to be spent on these type of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them, after almost 25 years of the so-called arms deal? The answer would be a big no," Yadav said in his order.

"The law applicable in the matter would reveal that despite spending through its nose for about 21 years, the CBI has not been able to put forward legally sustainable evidence with regard to conspiracy in the matter," the order said.

"The very question which stares us at our faces is whether it is justified for the government and CBI to continue to spend on the extradition of 'Q', which may or may not ultimately happen during his lifetime," the judge said, allowing the CBI plea to withdraw the case against 70-year-old fugitive Italian.

Pointing out that the CBI had spent more than Rs.250 crore on the investigations that yielded no result, Yadav said: "While we are busy in discussing the Sensex and scams, India's poorest are barely surviving, thanks to an appalling governance deficit. In some areas of our country, we have no electricity, no roads, no proper water facilities; 50 percent of India lives on less than $2 a day, 100 million children go to bed hungry every night; 62 percent live without electricity and in some of the areas, the villages are another heart of India's darkness."

"The decision of the CBI, seeking withdrawal of prosecution against Q on the face of it appears to be bona fide and in the larger public interest," the judge said.

Quattrocchi, who fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, he has never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution.

The court accepted the CBI plea noting that two earlier attempts by it to extradite Quattrocchi from two different countries have "miserably failed".

Accepting the CBI's plea that if the application was rejected and again and the agency presses for extradition, then its consequences would be very dangerous, the judge said: "In future no other country would allow the extradition application of government of India, who at the time of considering extradition applications considered the merits of the case as well."

The CBI had in October 2009 sought permission of the court to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi, saying his continued prosecution was "unjustified" in the light of various factors, including the agency's failed attempts to get him extradited - first from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007.

The CBI had registered a criminal case on Jan 20, 1990 to probe who were the beneficiaries of the payoffs in the 1986 Bofors gun deal.

During the pendency of the case, even a ruling of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order came, saying that kickbacks of Rs.61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the howitzer deal but the CBI maintained that there is no change in their stand and they still want to close the case.

CBI counsel U.S.Prasad and Naveen Kumar Matta expressed happiness over the court's order.

"CBI has filed the application on Oct 3, 2009, on various grounds such as the long delay in the case, return of red corner notice and cases against others were quashed by the high court. CBI could not succeed in its extradition efforts in Argentina and Malaysia," said Prasad.

"Therefore, it was not in the public interest to proceed with the case. Although matter was contested on various grounds by defence counsel Ajay Agarwal but all after due consideration of all facts and submission court came to a conclusion that application for withdrawal by CBI prosecutor is bonafide," said Matta.

However, the defence counsel said they will appeal against the court order. "I will appeal this order in the high court and the Supreme Court as well," said Aggarwal.




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