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Final closure to Bofors saga,Quattrocchi is dead

Quattrocchi left India in 1993 and was subsequently declared a fugitive with a Red Corner Notice against him.

Two years after Indian courts finally withdrew all charges against him in the Bofors case,Ottavio Quattrocchi is dead.

Speaking from Milan,the Italian businessman’s wife Maria informed The Sunday Express that Quattrocchi died after suffering a stroke. He was 74.

In the course of the brief conversation,the bitterness over the Bofors kickbacks taint came through clearly: “For two decades you people of the Indian media and the courts have harassed us. Why are you calling now? He is no more,” Maria said.

A PTI report that quoted an unnamed member of the family said Quattrocchi had died on Friday,and the funeral would take place on Monday.

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The Bofors chargesheet naming Quattrocchi as the main accused was filed in 1999. Other prominent accused in the case,including former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo,Bofors agent Win Chadha and former defence secretary S K Bhatnagar,are already dead.

The Hinduja brothers,who were chargesheeted in the case in 2000,have been discharged.

Quattrocchi left India in 1993 and was subsequently declared a fugitive with a Red Corner Notice against him. He never joined the trial in New Delhi,and the CBI failed in two attempts to extradite him — once from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007. The failures — once each under an NDA and a UPA government — were subjects of huge political controversy.

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In several telephone interviews with The Indian Express and The Sunday Express,Quattrocchi always praised India,where he arrived in the mid-1960s as a representative of the Italian engineering firm Snamprogetti,and subsequently became very close to the Gandhi family.

After winning his case in Argentina,he told The Indian Express,“I have spent the best years of my life in India and I know there is nothing left in the Bofors case. It is the Indian courts which have given rulings that Rajiv Gandhi was not involved. The Hinduja brothers have been let off by the Indian courts. So why am I being chased across the globe? It is not good for a great country like India to draw a blank each time they press charges against a foreign national.”

In 2009,when the CBI filed its plea to wind up the case against him,Quattrocchi told this newspaper,“I am no longer troubled with the case. After the removal of the Red Corner Notice (in 2009),I have been travelling all over the world for business and have forgotten anything remains in India. I am very busy these days with my real estate business and would love to visit the country again.” Related: Quattrocchi a ‘ghost’ created by BJP,says Congress

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In 2007,Quattrocchi had told The Indian Express that he had not pressed legal charges against Indian authorities for detaining him in Malaysia,but he would do so after the Argentina fiasco where the judge had granted costs,and that his lawyers were doing the paperwork.

But he did not ultimately do so,because,as he told this newspaper,“Despite all the persecution I faced,despite the fact that I was arrested by Indian authorities twice entirely on fabricated charges,I have great warmth and respect for India in my heart…”

Quattrocchi’s death signals the closure of the Bofors scandal,which in 1987 was the biggest defence scam India had seen,and for which the Congress paid a heavy price in 1989.

In 2009,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally gave Quattrocchi a clean chit: “The Quattrocchi case is an embarassment for India,” he said. “It is not a good reflection on the Indian legal system that we harass people while the world says we have no case.”

On Saturday,the Congress described Quattrocchi as a “ghost” created by the BJP. “I don’t understand why Congress should react to the death of somebody who has been a ghost created by BJP. Somebody has died,his family deserves condolences,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told NDTV.

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“…From 1998 to 2004,BJP tried to tom tom this thing… in at least three or four elections… As far as besmirching of the political system is concerned… of the Gandhi family,of Congress is concerned,this is very wrong,” Singhvi said.

The BJP’s Prakash Javadekar retorted: “…The ghost was not created by BJP but by V P Singh and if we had created the ghost,it is because you (Congress) were hosting it.”

The Qstory

Mar 24,1986: Bofors contract for 410 155 mm Howitzers signed

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Apr 16,1987: Swedish Radio alleges bribes were paid to secure the contract

Jan 22,1990: FIR lodged in the case

Jul 29-30,1993: Quattrocchi leaves India

Feb 17,1997: Red Corner Notice issued against Quattrocchi

Aug 5,1998: Supreme Court dismisses plea to cancel NBW

Oct 22,1999: Chargesheet filed

Dec 2002: Two Malaysian courts turn down India’s extradition requests

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Jul 21,2003: India sends Letter Rogatory to the UK seeking freezing of Quattrocchi’s bank accounts

Mar 31,2004: Malaysian SC dismisses extradition request

Jan 11,2006: Lawyer Ajay Agrawal moves Supreme Court saying govt has asked UK authorities to defreeze Quattrocchi’s accounts. On the same date,Quattrocchi’s accounts were defreezed

Jan 16,2006: SC directs the Centre,CBI to ensure status quo on freezing money in accounts. But money is withdrawn the same day

Feb 6,2007: Quattrocchi arrested at Iguazu airport in Argentina

Oct 2009: CBI seeks court’s permission to withdraw case against Quattrocchi,saying his continued prosecution is “unjustified” in the light of various factors including the agency’s failure to get him extradited

Mar 4,2011: Court allows CBI plea to withdraw case against Quattrocchi

First published on: 14-07-2013 at 01:21 IST
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