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Quattrocchi 'can't be brought to trial'

CBI's admission prompted the green signal for reviving his London accounts into which the 'bribes were deposited'.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 22:25 IST

Admitting that Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi could not be brought for trial, the Indian government said on Monday that this had prompted the green signal for reviving his London accounts into which the bribes were said to have been deposited.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the government said Quattrocchi had withdrawn Rs 210 million ($4.75 million) from the two accounts.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told a bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal that the money was withdrawn on January 16, five days after the accounts were revived.

The bench is hearing a petition challenging the revival of the accounts.

According to Subramaniam, the CBI that is prosecuting the Bofors case had informed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that no useful purpose would be served by keeping Quattrocchi's accounts frozen as there is no prospect of his being brought to India for trial.

It was on the basis of this submission that CPS moved a London court for reviving the accounts.

Interestingly, the CBI website still lists Quattrocchi as being accused of "fraud and bribery" in the Bofors case and against whom Interpol has issued a red corner notice.

"He and his wife namely Quattrocchi Maria were involved in fraud and bribery committed in India between 1982-1987. A percentage of the money paid by the Indian government, was illegally transferred by the "AB Bofors" Company to bank accounts in Switzerland, to the benefit of certain Indian public servants and their nominees," the CBI website says.

"If you have any information, please contact your national or local police," it adds.

Subramaniam told the bench that after its January 16 order to maintain the status quo on the two accounts, the CBI had asked the London authorities for the current position on the accounts.

The CBI had then been informed that the money had been withdrawn on January 16.

Subramaniam told the court that the government and the CBI were pursuing the extradition proceedings against Quattrocchi for a case against him that is pending in a court.

The court gave two weeks to petitioner Ajay Aggarwal, a lawyer, to file his rejoinder to the centre's reply.

The Bofors case had been expected to die a quiet death after the Delhi High Court last year acquitted the Europe-based Hinduja brothers, who are said to have facilitated the gun deal, of any wrongdoing.

It, however, returned with a bang earlier this month after a TV channel revealed that the Indian authorities had given Britain the green signal for reviving Quattrocchi's accounts.

Additional Solicitor General B Datta had travelled to London on December 22, 2005 for this and the trip created a political storm with demands for the resignation of Law Minister HR Bharadwaj and Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachauri for clearing the journey.

The CBI stepped into the picture after Bharadwaj was sharply rapped for giving Quattrocchi a clean chit, saying it had recommended the Italian's accounts be revived.

First Published: Jan 23, 2006 18:27 IST