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Don't revive Quattrocchi's accounts, SC tells Govt

SC issued notices to Govt and CBI on a public suit seeking status quo on London accounts of the Bofors case accused.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 21:06 IST

The Indian government found itself in a bind on Monday after the Supreme Court asked it to ensure that the London accounts of an Italian businessmen accused in the Bofors payoffs scandal remained frozen.

"This is in the interest of the nation," a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal ruled on a public suit urging that Ottavio Quattrocchi's accounts, into which part of the Rs.640 million (Rs.28 billion at 1987 rates) kickbacks are said to have been deposited, not be revived.

However, reports from London on Monday said the accounts had been revived on Jan 11 after India's Additional Solicitor General B Datta informed the Crown Prosecution Service that there was no proof to link the accounts with the payoffs.

The Supreme Court also issued notices to the Indian government and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBO) on a public suit by lawyer Ajay Agarwal seeking status quo on the accounts.

Quattrocchi, along with the Europe-based Hinduja brothers, was said to have played the middleman in a 1987 Indian Army order for Bofors howitzers. The manufacturer, according the CBI that probed the case, paid Rs.640 million in kickbacks that were allegedly meant for Indian politicians and officials.

On Monday, Quattrocchi maintained there was "no proof" of his wrongdoing in spite of the case being probed for two decades.

"The Bofors case has been probed for 20 years. There's no proof linking me to Bofors," Quattrocchi said in a statement issued from Milan where he currently lives.

Quattrocchi was close to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia Gandhi, the current Congress party president. He fled to Malaysia after he was charged in the Bofors case but left the country before the courts there could rule on India's request for extraditing him.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 14:19 IST