Quattrochhi will now be an honourable guest in India. The UPA government has informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to withdraw all the cases of corruption pending against him. It has even said it would file a closure report in the lower courts where case is pending against him, which is coming up for hearing on October 3. The Red Corner Notice issued by the CBI 12 years ago was withdrawn a year ago. Not that it did any good or restrained the business man and deal maker in any manner. The only minor discomfort he suffered, if it can be called that, was that he could not visit India and pursue his business openly. No doubt, he must have had aliases dealing for him, given the highest political patronage and protection he enjoyed. The closure of the case now was only a formality. During the previous UPA rule, the Italian businessman’s bank account in London was allowed to be defreezed.
Quattrochhi was right when he told the media that this good news should have come long ago. In spite of clinching evidence, the successive governments in New Delhi did not redeem their national commitment to put the guilty behind bars. Now he has expressed his interest in visiting India. “I would love to visit India since my family and I have spent some of the best years of our lives in the country” he told The Indian Express.
The most affected party in the closure of the Bofors case would be the officers in the CBI. Not because their professional credential was dented, but they cannot wrangle any more foreign trips in the name of ‘collecting evidence’ for the case. The crores of public money spent on this case, which came to nothing, needs to be accounted for. In fact an RTI on the expenditure on the case proceedings, including the foreign jaunts by CBI officials and politicians could reveal that it is many times more than the kickback amount.
The NDA which was in power for six years did precious little in the case. It also sent several teams – investigative and legal – to various countries. The non-Congress governments before NDA too had not pursued the case with heart. While the Bofors case has always evoked maximum decibel in Parliament, the political rhetoric never translated into action. We can hope to witness one more round of ruckus over the issue, whenever the next Parliament session begins.
The CBI registered its FIR in the case on January 22, 1990. It charge sheeted Win Chadha, Quattrochhi and Rajiv Gandhi on October 22, 1999. In October 2000, the Hindujas were named in supplementary charges. The Delhi High Court cleared Rajiv Gandhi and the Hindujas of charges in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The CBI trudged on in the case, without showing any tangible progress. First the Quattrochhi bank account was allowed to be reopened and then the Red Corner Notice was cancelled. It was only an intelligent guess that the case was about to be dropped. Hence the political “uproar” being trumpeted now is just a need of the hour reaction.
The personalities in the Bofors case were in a triangle. The man who got a political steam because of Bofors, to become India’s Prime Minister, V P Singh, went into political oblivion. Quattrochhi has been let off without so much as a scratch and the family accused of getting the Rs 64 crore kickback is today the most powerful in India. The whistle blower has been silenced and the accused let off.
The government closed the case and the Congress party congratulated it on the end of ‘witch hunt.’ There used to be a good old joke that the CBI should be renamed the Congress Bureau of Investigation-after all it works only for the Congress. But on a serious note, we ought to get a straight answer from the CBI now. Does it believe today, nearly 19 years after the FIR, that no kickback was paid in the Bofors deal? Or, is it admitting that it has been unable to catch the culprit and prove the case? Will someone answer?