The Bofors pay-offs scandal that cost Rajiv Gandhi the 1989 polls was finally swept into history on Friday with a Delhi court allowing the CBI’s plea for withdrawal of criminal charges against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Eighteen years after Quattrocchi — charged with criminal conspiracy and cheating — fled to Malaysia and the CBI started its endless chase, chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav accepted the agency’s plea to let him off, saying it had cost the exchequer R250 crore.
In April 1987, Swedish Radio alleged kickbacks in India’s 1986 deal for 400 Howitzer guns at R1,437 crore from Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors. The CBI registered an FIR in 1990.
After several failed attempts to extradite Quattrocchi from Malaysia and then Argentina, the CBI in 2009 moved a formal plea for withdrawal of the case against him, terming his continued prosecution “unjustified”.
Terming the CBI’s plea “bonafide and in larger public interest”, Yadav said: “The case has been pending for more than 21 years... All the other accused have either died or proceedings against them have been quashed.”
He rejected advocate Ajay Agrawal’s application opposing the CBI plea, saying he just wanted cheap publicity.