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Bofors scam: BJP leader, advocate file plea in SC for early hearing

This assumes significance in the wake of a demand in Parliament by BJP MPs for reopening of probe

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

guns, military, army, bofors
File photo of Bofors gun 155mm. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

An application has been moved in the Supreme seeking early hearing of the politically- sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors payoff case after a fresh media report suggesting a financial quid pro quo for the Rs 1,437 crore Howitzer gun deal in 1986. The plea by leader and advocate Ajay Agrawal has also alleged apparent collusiveness by with the accused persons in the Bofors scam, saying the agency did not challenge the Delhi High Court's May 31, 2005, judgement quashing all charges against the Europe-based Hinduja brothers. He has challenged the judgement in the apex which had on October 18, 2005, admitted his that was filed after the failed to approach the top with the appeal within the 90-day deadline after the High verdict. In the application, the lawyer-turned-politician said he had filed the appeal in public interest because the did not come forward and it was reported that the Ministry then had not given permission to the agency, despite the fact that the High order was illegal. To substantiate the allegation of collusiveness between the and the accused persons, Agrawal in his application has narrated the sequence of events that led to the defreezing of the bank account of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, alleged middleman in the deal, in 2006, for which the then Additional Solicitor General B Dutta had visited England. He said such a step was undertaken despite the fact that the then UPA government and the were aware that his appeal has been admitted by the apex Agrawal, who had contested the Rai Bareli in 2014 against Congress President Sonia Gandhi, also claimed that the did not bother to inform the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, which was seized of the Quattrocchi matter, to inform about its move to defreeze the accounts. He said that on August 3, he had written a letter to the seeking re-investigation of the entire and the trail of alleged bribe money deposited in Quattrocchi's bank account and the subsequent developments after the defreezing of the account on January 16, 2006. Fresh developments assume significance in the wake of a demand in by ruling MPs for reopening of the probe into the Bofors kickback scandal after the media reports quoting Swedish chief investigator Sten Lindstrom's suggested payment of alleged bribery at the top level. After the developments in Parliament, Agrawal also wrote a letter to the seeking an investigation into the trail of the kickback money under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. In the July 28 letter to the ED, he claimed that the alleged crimes were committed continuously till 2006 when two accounts held by Quattrochi, who has been accused as one of the middlemen in the deal, were de-freezed. The leader said the should file an about the facts and course of an investigation into the case, as during the brief hearing on December 1, 2016, the agency had told the apex that the authorities had not permitted it to file an appeal against the May 31, 2005, verdict. He said he would try to convince the apex through his that the "High had quashed the charges against the accused persons on technical grounds and the order was totally perverse which is liable to be set aside." Justice R S Sodhi, since retired, of the Delhi High had on May 31, 2005, quashed all charges against the Hinduja brothers -- Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand -- and the Bofors company and castigated the for its handling of the case saying it had cost the exchequer about Rs 250 crore. Before the 2005 verdict, another judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice J D Kapoor (since retired) on February 4, 2004, had exonerated late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the case and directed framing of charge of forgery under Section 465 of the against the Bofors company. The matter was last listed on February 28 this year when it was adjourned. The apex had on October 18, 2005, allowed Agrawal to file an appeal agaDecemberh verdict in the absence of any appeal by The December 1, 2016, hearing had taken place after a gap of almost six years since August 12, 2010. 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 was entered on March 24, 1986. The Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel. The on January 22, 1990, had registered the FIR for the alleged offence of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery under the 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. It had alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy between 1982 and 1987 in pursuance of which the offences of bribery, corruption, cheating and forgery were committed to the extent of Rs 64 crore in the contracts for the supply of Bofors guns. The first charge sheet in the case was filed on October 22, 1999, against Chadda, Quattrocchi, then Defence Secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet against Hinduja brothers was filed on October 9, 2000. A special in Delhi On March 4, 2011, 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. Quattrocchi, who had fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, has never appeared before any in India to face prosecution.

He passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who have died are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.

First Published: Sun, August 06 2017. 14:16 IST