The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) appears resigned to losing its bid for the extradition of Bofors-payoff accused Ottavio Quattrocchi from Argentina, but a former director of the agency says it still has a "very strong case" in the Supreme Court in Argentina.
"It's our understanding that any case reaches the apex court there automatically, but we are waiting for the official communication from there," said a senior CBI official who did not want to be identified.
A lower Argentinean court had June 8 dismissed India's claim to extradite the Italian businessman to face trial in India for his alleged role in the $7.34 million Bofors bribery scam.
Asked if it was true that the Argentinean apex court hears no fresh argument or facts during appeal, the CBI official said, "That's our understanding as well." The official admitted that this practice meant that India now stands a meagre chance of winning its case in the Argentinean supreme court.
However, former CBI director Joginder Singh told IANS: "The case against Quattrocchi is still very strong and India always stood a good chance of winning it, had we deployed the best of legal brains to fight it. Quattrocchi can still be extradited, provided the government has the will and deputes outstanding lawyers and not the government lawyers whose sole objective happens to be not to displease anybody in the government."
"In any case, for extradition, one need only prove the existence of a prima facie criminal case against a person and not his guilt in that case", he added.
"The First Information Report in the Bofors case itself comprises 130 pages with several facts of evidentiary value thrown in. All we need is the political will to have him extradited," said Singh.
Singh had handled the case during his tenure as CBI chief and personally brought bulky documentary evidence in January 1997 in the form of Quattrocchi's Swiss bank documents from Geneva after winning a long legal battle there with the accused.
"To begin with we have evidence in the form of the November 1985 contract between AE Services, the subsidiary of a firm owned by Quattrocchi, and Bofors AB, which required Quattrocchi's company to win the contract for Bofors by March 31, 1986 for a three percent commission of the contract amount," said Singh.
But, he said, "Nobody appears to have looked at this fact."
"The contract was actually awarded March 24, 1986 itself and Bofors transferred $7.34 million to Quattrocchi," said Singh adding: "these papers were personally brought by me from Switzerland. The case against Quattrocchi is still strong as it is based on bank records."
Asked about Singh's statements, CBI special director ML Sharma said, "Singh is our former director. I will not like to comment upon what he says. But I would like to add that whatever evidence is there in the case, we had placed them all before the Argentinean court."