BJP seeks apology from PM over Quattrocchi

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday sought an apology from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for giving a “clean chit” to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors kickback case, and said government agencies were involved in saving Quattrocchi because of his “proximity to the Gandhi family”.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said the media had reported the prime minister’s remarks in 2009 that the Quattrocchi case was an embarrassment to the government and “it is not a good reflection on the Indian legal system that we harass people while the world says we have no case”.

Prasad said the statement of the prime minister was “completely contrary” to findings of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) were contrary.

“Prime minister, you tried to give him (Quattrocchi) a clean chit. The closure report of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is still pending in court. The big question is that first spoil the case and then say no case is made out… The tribunal has named Quattrocchi as one of the main beneficiaries of kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal. When the appellate tribunal has completely expressed that his exoneration was wrong, would you apologise to the nation?” Prasad said.

Referring to the prime minister’s remarks at the Congress plenary last month that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion, Prasad said: “We are trying to judge you upon the benchmark you have set for yourself.”

He alleged that the government agencies were involved in saving Quattrocchi because of his “proximity to the Gandhi family”.

Posing questions to the prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prasad said in July 1993 Quattrocchi fled India or “was allowed to run away” to avoid arrest when the Supreme Court rejected Win Chadha’s plea for quashing the letters rogatory sent to Sweden.

He said when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was in power in 1998, a chargesheet was filed for the first time in the case and in November 1999 the trial court issued arrest warrant against Quattrocchi and other accused.

He said Quattrocchi approached the Supreme Court for quashing of arrest warrant and in spite of the court asking him to appear before the CBI, the Italian businessman refused to appear.

He said Quattrocchi’s bank account was frozen in July 2003 by the United Kingdom authorities on the request of NDA government but when United Progressive Alliance came to power, the then Additional Solicitor General B. Dutta falsely told the authorities that no case was pending and the account be de-freezed. “Under whose pressure was this done?” Prasad said.

Referring to Quattrocchi’s arrest in Argentina, he said “deliberate delay” was made in not filing an appeal in the court and he was allowed to escape.

Prasad said that in September 2009, the central government told the Supreme Court about its decision to withdraw case against Quattrocchi.

“All this clearly shows that the entire machinery of the government was trying to help him and bail him out at different stages. All this because he enjoyed high patronage owing to his proximity to the Gandhi family,” Prasad said.

He repeated the party’s demand for restarting criminal proceedings by handing it over to a special investigative team.

ITAT has ruled that Quattrocchi and his partner Win Chadha received a commission of over Rs.412 million in the Rs.15 billion howitzer gun deal in 1987.

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