The politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors pay-off case is once again in the limelight as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought the government's permission to file a plea that could lead to reopening of the Bofors case.
The Bofors deal, signed in 1986, was believed to be one of primary reasons for the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress' defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections.
Here is a timeline of the Bofors case:
March 24, 1986: The Rs 1,437-crore deal between India and the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army was entered on March 24, 1986.
April 16, 1987: The Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
April 20, 1987: Rajiv Gandhi
told the Lok Sabha that no kickbacks were paid and no middlemen were involved.
August 6, 1987: Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) set up under former union minister B Shankaranand to investigate the kickbacks allegations.
Indian investigators visit Sweden
to probe the issue
July 18, 1989: JPC submitted report to the Parliament
November 1989: Congress
was defeated in general elections, therefore, Rajiv Gandhi
lost his position.
December 26, 1989: Then prime minister V P Singh-led government barred Bofors from signing any contract with India.
January 22, 1990:
The CBI had registered the FIR for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery under the Indian Penal Code and other sections of Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda
and Hinduja brothers.
February 1990: First Letter Rogatory sent to Swiss Government.
Journalist Bo Anderson’s report on the Bofors scandal
was published, which created a massive controversy.
The Supreme Court
rejected the complaint in the case reversing Delhi High Court’s decision.
The Swiss Supreme Court
dismissed the appeal of Ottavio Quattrocchi
and other accused in the case. Quattrocchi
was an Italian businessman who was being sought until early 2009 in India for criminal charges for acting as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal.
In the same month, Quattrocchi
left India and has not returned since.
Non-bailable warrant (NBW) and Red Corner notice issued against Quattrocchi.
March-August 1998: Quattrocchi
filed a plea, which was rejected in Supreme Court
as he refused to appear in the Indian court.
December 1998: Second Rogatory Letter sent to the Swiss government to probe into the transfer of money from Guernsey and Austria to Switzerland.
October 22, 1999: The first charge sheet in the case was filed against Win Chadda, who was an agent of A B Bofors, Quattrocchi, then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, Martin Karl Ardbo, who was the president of the gun manufacturer, and the Bofors company.
March-September 2000: Chadha came to India to face trial and sought permission to go to Dubai for medical treatment but the plea was rejected. An open NBC was issued in July against Ardbo.
September-October 2000: Hinduja brothers
issued a statement in London that said that the funds allocated by them had no connection to the Bofors deal. However, a supplementary charge sheet was filed against Hinduja brothers
and a chargesheet was filed against Quattrocchi, who asked Supreme Court
to reverse the order of his arrest but when the court asked him to appear before CBI for a probe, he refused to oblige.
December 2000: Quattrocchi
was arrested in Malaysia, but later received bail on the condition that he does not leave the country.
August 2001: Bhatnagar dies of cancer
December 2002: India requested for Quattrocchi’s extradition but Malaysia High Court turned down the request.
July 2003: Letter of Rogatory sent by India to the United Kingdom seeking the freezing of Quattrocchi's bank accounts.
Court had exonerated late Rajiv Gandhi
and Bhatnagar the case and directed framing of charge of forgery under Section 465 of IPC against the Bofors company. Malaysian Supreme Courted rejected India’s extradition request of Quattrocchi.
Delhi HC quashed charges against the Hinduja brother and A B Bofors. The apex court had allowed Ajay Agarwal, a Supreme Court
lawyer, to file an appeal against the high court verdict in the absence of any appeal by CBI within the mandatory 90 days.
January 2006: SC directs Centre and CBI to ensure the status quo of freezing Quattrocchi's accounts. However, money was withdrawn on the same day.
February-June 2007: The Interpol arrested Quattrochi at Iguazu Airport in Argentine. Three months later, the Federal court of the first instance declined India’s request for extradition.
CBI withdrew Red Corner Notice against Quattrocchi
and sought SC’s permission to withdraw the case as continuous efforts of extradition had failed. Later, Ajay Agarwal filed an RTI application seeking the documents of de-freezing Quattrocchi’s account in London, but CBI refused to reply to the plea.
December 2010: Court reversed order on CBI plea to discharge Quattrochhi. Income tax tribunal asked the income tax department to get the tax dues from Quattrochhi and Chaddha’s son.
Chief Information Commission accused CBI of withholding information. A month later, a special CBI court in Delhi had discharged Quattrocchi
from the case saying the country cannot afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which has already cost Rs 250 crore.
Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom revealed that he was the Deep Throat in the Bofors case
and the key source that Chitra Subramaniam turned to. He added that the Swedish Police had no evidence of Rajiv Gandhi
or Amitabh Bachchan, who was a close friend the former prime minister, receiving kickbacks in the Bofors scam.
Amitabh Bachchan's name first appeared in this scandal through a newspaper who printed his name and a case was filed against him but later he was declared innocent.
July 2013: Quattrocchi, who fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, has never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who have died are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.
December 1, 2016: The hearing of Agarwal’s had taken place after a gap of almost six years since August 12, 2010.
July 14, 2017:
The CBI said it would open the investigation on the Bofors case
if the Supreme Court
and Centre orders for the same.
October 19, 2017:
CBI asserted that they will probe the facts and circumstances revealed in connection to Bofors scam, including the information provided by Michael Hershman
to a TV channel in an interview, wherein he made several revelations and named some powerful politicians in India linked with the deal. Michael Hershman, who first found Bofors papers, was a secret investigator the Indian government had deployed.