PTI | April 28, 2009 | 11:50 IST
After figuring in category of people wanted by Interpol for 12 years, the CBI has asked the international agency to take off Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the multi-crore Bofors payoff scam, from the Red Corner notice list in which he had been put at India’s behest.
The decision was taken after getting the legal opinion from Attorney General Milon Banerjee.
“The case has been under trial in the courts since 1999. The CBI has taken action on the basis of legal advice of the highest order. We will inform the competent court on the next date of hearing (April 30, 2009),” CBI spokesman Harsh Bahal said on Tuesday.
The Attorney General cited the inability of the CBI to seek Quattrocchi’s extradition on two occasions –first in Malaysia in 2003 and then in Argentina in 2007–and opined that the judgments in both the cases indicated that there were no good grounds for extradition.
“….The warrant cannot remain in force forever. Therefore, the warrant of February 1997 would lose its validity, particularly in view of the successive failed attempts of the CBI to get the accused extradited from Malaysia and recently from Argentina,” Banerjee, the country’s top law officer, said.
The decision on the issue was taken by the Government on the basis of the opinion and the CBI informed the Interpol that the CBI case–RC.1(A)/90-ACU.IV/SIG (Bofors case)and subject of Interpol Red Corner Notice–A-44/2/1997against Quattrocchi should be cancelled.
The case was registered against him as the agency had alleged that he had received a part of kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal.
The Italian businessman, in his mid-60s, was named by the CBI in 1999 as a proclaimed offender and on the basis of a 1997 non-bailable warrant, the agency had sought a Red Corner notice against him.
Quattrocchi was last arrested on February 6, 2007 in Argentina on an Interpol warrant. The CBI came under attack for putting up a half-hearted effort towards his extradition and India lost the case in an Argentinian court in June 2007.
The judge there had remarked that “India did not even present proper legal documents” and New Delhi was asked to pay Quattrocchi’s legal expenses.
On October 22, 1999, when the BJP-led NDA government was in power, the CBI filed a chargesheet against Quattrocchi, naming AE Services as a front company run by him and his wife Maria.
Based on 500 documents released by Swiss banks after protracted legal procedures, the CBI framed charges against Quattrocchi and his wife.
Attempts to extradite Quattrocchi from Malaysia in 2003 failed owing to lack of “compelling” evidence and in the same year he had returned to Italy from that country.
Extradition request or serving the Interpol warrant on the Italian businessman were turned down by Italy, which had wanted to see the evidence and prosecute Quattrocchi in an Italian court.
‘CBI has proof of Quattrocchi getting $7.32 mn’
PTI | New Delhi
“There are documents with the CBI showing that Quattrocchi received $7.32 million. The documents have been given by the Swiss authorities themselves,” the former CBI Director, who brought the documents from Switzerland, told PTI here.
He claimed that the documents were with the Government and the CBI and also part of records in Delhi High Court.
Singh, who had gone to Switzerland in 1997 and brought nearly 500 pages of documents released by Swiss banks, said, “when I took over, I found that the the CBI had a room full of documents relating to Bofors case but no one had touched them.”
Singh said after bringing back the documents he had sent a report to the Government in three months.
Asked why the Government did not do anything, he said, “It is up to the Government to accept it or not. I don’t regret because I did my job.”
Asked if the decision of dropping the name of Quattrocchi from the Interpol’s Red Corner notice was wrong, he said “the Government has all the rights…The CBI is not an independent agency. It has to carry out whatever the Government says. You may not agree with it but there is option than to carry out whatever they say.”