So, Bofors did pay bribes!, And Ottavio Quattrocchi was the beneficiary

via The Pioneer Edit Desk published on January 7, 2011

Truth can be suppressed for some time through deceit and subterfuge, but it has a habit of surfacing, often with a bang and when least expected by those who want it to remain buried forever. So also with the Bofors scandal whose stain the Congress has tried to whitewash for more than two decades now. The Congress had come to believe that the ghost of Bofors, which had haunted the party ever since the scandal of illegal commissions being paid to ‘agents’ in the Howitzer field gun deal came to light in the mid-1980s, had been buried forever when the CBI sought a closure of the case during UPA1’s tenure. The CBI, in it stunning submission, had claimed that it had no evidence against the accused, namely Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian middleman whose proximity to the first family of the Congress is common knowledge. On that occasion, Prime Minister had sought to justify the patently illegal action of the CBI by saying that it was a “shame” to file charges against Quattrocchi; it would appear that Mr Manmohan Singh had had sleepless nights worrying about a bribe-taker who had been declared an absconder by the courts and the closure report came as a relief as much for the Italian fixer as for him. The then Union Minister for Law, Mr HR Bhardwaj, had facilitated that gross act of crippling the criminal justice system. Earlier, the CBI had silently allowed Quattrocchi to empty his London bank accounts where part of the Bofors payola had been stashed and which had been frozen at the initiative of the NDA Government.

But like Banquo’s ghost, the ghost of Bofors can never really be laid to rest till those who looted the nation are brought to justice. Hence, it is not surprising that the entire issue has once again come alive with the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal rejecting the appeal of the son of the late Win Chaddha, who was the ‘official agent’ of Bofors and to whom ‘fees’ were paid despite an explicit clause in the contract prohibiting such payment on the instructions of Quattrocchi, to be exempted from paying tax on the ‘income’. The tribunal has also said that the other beneficiary of the deal, Quattrocchi, should also pay tax on the money that was directly paid to him, amounting to three per cent of the total amount. In brief, what has been reiterated, with a total recall of how the ill-gotten money was shifted from account to account in Swiss and offshore banks to confuse investigators and cover-up the crime, is that kickbacks were paid and received in the Bofors deal; the beneficiaries were Chaddha and Quattrocchi; and, the money was stolen from the people of India. Investigations have clearly shown that Chaddha’s Svenska Inc, registered in Panama, was used for funnelling the bribe, as was Quattrocchi’s AE Services.

After Monday’s ruling, the Prime Minister owes an explanation to the nation as to why he allowed the CBI to close the Bofors bribery case; plaintive claims of being honest and pathetic comparisons of himself with Caesar’s wife will not suffice. Nor will silence of the variety that facilitated the Great 2G Robbery answer questions about complicity at the highest level.As for the Congress, it stands exposed, though not for the first time, denuded of all scruples. Meanwhile, Mr Bhardwaj should be sacked from his present job as Governor of Karnataka and prosecuted for his role in the cover-up operation. After all, as the tribunal has noted, there is no reason to let crooks believe “India is a soft state and one can meddle with its laws with impunity”.

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