January 16, 2006
Former Law minister and BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prevent the ‘‘extraordinary concession being volunteered by the Government of India’’ to Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused of receiving kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal.
Demanding action against Law minister H R Bhardwaj— he called him ‘‘an erring and a delinquent minister’’—Jaitley said that only the CBI was authorized to deal with the case.
“The Ministry of Law has no locus standii in the matter. Under the Allocation of Business Rules, the CBI comes under the Department of Personnel of which you are the Cabinet Minister,’’ he wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister today.
Posing a question to the Prime Minister, he asked him if had authorised the concession to Quattrocchi, or he was kept in the dark. “Questions with regard to the creditability of the Government and your own role in the matter are also being raised. The country was entitled to know an answer from a government, which claims the legislation on The Right to Information as its achievement,’’ wrote Jaitley.
“Fairness requires that since the accused has close connections in high places, the role of the Government and the investigative agencies in dealing with him must conform to the highest standards of fair play, transparency and impartiality. However, events have proved that this is not so.’’ Referring to the the “interference” by Bhardwaj and Additional Solicitor General B Dutta in the criminal proceedings against Quattrocchi, he said that they had “shaken the confidence of the people of India in the fairness of the Government.”
“The fact that Quattrocchi was extremely close to the-then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, the chairperson of the UPA, is perceived to be a ground for his having gained political clout and the capacity to influence the Defence transaction in 1986,’’ Jaitley stated.
“It is disturbing and surprising that the Government of India through its Additional Solicitor General should have volunteered to inform the Crown Prosecutor that moneys lying deposited in the two British accounts be paid to Quattrocchi after de-freezing the accounts,’’ he added.
In case the CBI honestly believed that the Additional Solicitor General should not have made this concession, “and you feel that this concession was made without your concurrence, the opinion given by the Additional Solicitor General to the Crown Prosecutor requires to be countermanded forthwith,’’ he said.
The CBI on the strength of its investigation—chasing the money trail from a Swiss account—had succeeded in getting the two accounts in Britain frozen wherein “moneys springing out of the benefits of the Bofors bribery case were alleged to have been deposited. Quattrocchi’s legal remedies in the matter did not yield results. It appears that he has now turned to his powerful political friends for help,’’ Jaitley said, recounting the background of the case.
Listing the things where the government did not act against Quattrcochi, Jaitley said that in 1993, despite the Swiss authorities having informed the CBI about the fact the Italian businessman was a beneficiary of the kickbacks, his passport was not impounded and he was allowed to escape from India.
A chargesheet was filed against him in October, 1999. Attempts had been made by the CBI to extradite him to India. ‘‘The proceedings for extradition have virtually become infructuous since he appears to have now escaped from Malaysia to Italy. Why have we not taken any steps to extradite him from Italy?” he questioned.
Having been a Law minister himself, Jaitley said that the job of the Law Ministry was merely to tender legal advice and to provide lawyers to represent different departments of the Government.
“Who authorised the Law Ministry to deal with this matter? Who authorised the visit of the Additional Solicitor General of India to Britain? Who prevented the CBI officer from accompanying the Additional Solicitor General of India?’’ All these questions, he said, needed to be answered.
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