The CBI on Thursday found itself on a sticky wicket with a Delhi court questioning its decision to drop the case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the over two-decade old Bofors pay-off scam, saying there were “certain malafide intentions”.
The court made the observations after a Supreme Court advocate opposed CBI’s plea for withdrawal of the case alleging that attempts were made to protect Quattrocchi.
“I agree that there are certain malafide intentions in the case and there is no doubt in that,” chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav said when Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Agrawal submitted that the CBI and the Centre had tried to protect the 70-year-old Italian businessman.
“I understand that several malafide (intentions) were there in defreezing of bank account (of Quattrocchi) but can you verbally suggest me the ways to secure the presence of Quattrocchi after several attempts of CBI to extradite him had failed,” the court asked when Agrawal contended that the withdrawal of the case against the sole accused should not be allowed.
Continuing the arguments, additional solicitor general PP Malhotra, appearing for the CBI, said there was no change in government’s stand on withdrawing the case against Quattrocchi in the wake of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order in the politically sensitive case.
Malhotra said, “The judgement of the tribunal is wholly irrelevant and reliance on it is totally misconceived.”
“There is no change in the government’s stand on withdrawing the case against Quattrocchi,” he said when the CMM asked him about government’s position on the issue.
The income tax tribunal in a recent order had said kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal.
Pleading for withdrawal of the criminal case against Quattrocchi, the ASG said the court should not rely on the ITAT order while deciding CBI’s plea as that proceeding was different from the criminal proceedings.
“There are clear findings that dispute before the tribunal was in relation to tax liability rather than fixing any criminal liability or accountability of the assessee (Quattrocchi and Win Chadha) for any other law or obligation,” Malhotra said.
“Rules of rigour evidence are not applicable and there is difference between criminal and judicial proceedings,” he said.