The government on Saturday charged the BJP-led opposition with resorting to “desperate political stunts” on the Bofors issue after having miserably lost the legal battle in different countries, which cost the country more than Rs 250 crore.
Union Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said that “it was the BJP-led NDA government which lost cases related to the Bofors issue in India and abroad during its tenure”, and was now spreading canards to hide its failures.
“After the Delhi High Court quashed the charges of bribery and corruption against the accused in the Bofors case in February 2004, didn’t the BJP decide not to appeal against the verdict since there was nothing left in the case,” Bhardwaj asked.
The NDA government allowed the mandatory 60-day period to file an appeal to lapse, he said. Asked if there was nothing to hide, why then did the government help Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, prime accused in the case, get a Red Corner Notice against him removed, Bhardwaj said: “Quattrocchi was in India between 1990 and 1993. Why did the V.P. Singh government not take any action?”
Repeating that the notice was withdrawn in November 2008 and “not recently as reported in a section of the media,” the minister said that instead of trying to make use of “motivated media leaks”, the BJP should read what the law officers appointed by the NDA had told the court.
“The Additional Solicitor General appointed by the NDA government told the court in 2003 that the CBI had found no evidence of money being received by any public servant,” he remarked.
Bhardwaj said the 22-year-old case had cost Rs 250 crore of taxpayers’ money and “some leaders, to keep their petty politics alive”, are still not ready to treat the matter as closed. “The figure of Rs 250 crore is the estimate given by the Delhi High Court,” he added.
Bhardwaj also asked the BJP to come clean on how it lost the case to extradite Quattrocchi from Malaysia in four courts there. He said the government had made a second attempt to get him extradited in Argentina in 2007, “where the court imposed costs on the Indian government for harassing him”.