Court upholds CBI plea in Bofors case (Second Lead)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NEW DELHI - A local court Thursday upheld the CBI plea that the tax notice served on Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi was not linked with the criminal aspect of the Bofors kickbacks scam.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Vinod Yadav dismissed an application asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the central government to state whether there was any change in their stand seeking closure of criminal cases against Quattrocchi, one of the alleged recipients of bribes from Sweden’s Bofors company.

The ruling came three days after the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal ruled sensationally that Quattrocchi and his Indian partner Win Chadha did take commissions of over Rs.412 million in the 1986 Bofors gun deal.

The application dismissed by the court was moved by petitioner advocate Ajay Agarwal, who is opposing the CBI’s application seeking to close all criminal cases against Quattrocchi.

The court said it was satisfied with the CBI stand that the tribunal’s order dealt with a tax issue and not the criminal aspect of the case.

Appearing for the investigating agency, Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra told the court that even the tribunal said in its order that it was only related to the tax aspect and not the criminal dimension of the case.

Malhotra told the court that there was no change in the stand of the investigating agency on the closure of the case against Quattrocchi.

He said that he had instructions from the government to say so and will also file a document on the issue.

The court also asked the petitioner to satisfy it that the case closure application by the CBI was not in public interest, bonafide and in good faith.

“I want to satisfy my conscience on the question of public interest and bonafide,” CMM Yadav said.

The court asked Agarwal to address the question as to “how this court could ensure the presence of Quattrocchi”.

“Mr. Agarwal your case is more arduous than that of the ASG and convince me on the three parameters supported by Supreme Court judgments,” the court said.

The court earlier observed that though the central government spent Rs.40 lakh in courts in Argentina for the extradition of Quattrocchi yet no appeal was filed challenging the verdict of the court in Buenos Aires declining his extradition.

“The point is well taken that the case in Argentina was not done properly and (was done) with a bias towards a particular person,” the court said taking note of the submissions made by Agarwal.

At another point, the court wanted to know if there were any properties owned by Quattrocchi in Delhi that could be attached in the event of court deciding to do so.

When Malhotra took objection to Agarwal “maligning” the law officers of the government, the court said: “None of his arguments can proceed without maligning the law officers, the CBI and a political party. The government moves only through the law officers. I can’t gag him.”

On Malhotra questioning the locus standi of Agarwal in opposing the investigating agency’s closure application, the court said: “Political interpolators are out. Who will bring out the truth? Who will bring out the malafide?”

The court went on to record in its order that notwithstanding the question of Agarwal’s locus standi he was “capable of assisting the court”.

Seeking the chronological account of the case from the freezing to the defreezing of Quattrocchi’s bank account in Britain, the court observed: “There was something when BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)-led government was there. I want to know at what point things started fizzling out.”

Agarwal was also given an opportunity to inspect the judicial papers relating to case.

The matter will come up for hearing Feb 10.

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