Criticising the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) decision to remove the name of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochi from its list of wanted people, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday said it was a "farewell gift" from the Congress-led government to a "close friend" of party president Sonia Gandhi.
“The CBI has become an embarrassment for the entire country,” BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley told reporters here on a day when the opposition parties have hit out at the Congress for removing Quattrochi's name as a suspect in the Bofors gun purchase pay-off scandal of the 1980s.
Jaitley said the move indicated the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) felt it would not return to power.
“Quattrochi has been a close friend of the Congress leadership and therefore at the time of the departure (of the UPA government), it is a gift to the citizen of a privileged country,” he said.
He then read out a long list of cases where the government had allegedly manipulated the CBI for its political ends.
“This is scandalous conduct of the CBI. The CBI was created to bring probity to the government, to investigate any corruption cases in the government. It has become a political tool in the hands of the central government.”
Jaitley said if the BJP was elected to power in Lok Sabha elections, it would set up a panel to investigate cases of collusion of the CBI, as well as suggest methods to bring back credibility to the investigating agency.
“If voted to power, we will set up a commission to investigate these cases of collusion with the accused. Also, it will suggest remedial measures to bring back autonomy and independence to the CBI,” he said.
The case against Quattrocchi, known to be close to late Rajiv Gandhi, who was prime minister in 1987 when the bribery scandal broke, and his wife Sonia, has taken tortuous twists and turns after he was named in a CBI charge sheet as the conduit for the Bofors kickbacks.
But he has managed to evade interrogation.
The nearest the CBI came to him was in February 2007 when Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on the basis of an Interpol warrant.
But the CBI took time in translating documents that were to be presented in the designated court there and also put up a half-hearted effort for his extradition. It finally lost the case for his extradition four months later.
Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader Advani said in Gandhinagar that the CBI decision shows the Congress was not confident of coming back to power.
"Manmohan Singh's party wanted to remove his name from the list. The decision indicates they think their party will not come back to power after the elections. I condemn the government's decision," Advani said.