Alleging the Italian businessman had 'turned to his powerful political friends for help', Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Arun Jaitley has demanded action against Union Law Minister H R Bhardwaj, accusing him of interfering in criminal proceedings against Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors case.
'The fact that you are not acting against an erring minister raises doubts about existence of any accountablity in the government, which claims the legislation on the 'Right to Information' as its achievement', Jaitley said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He said it was disturbingly surprising that the government, through Additional Solicitor General B Datta, should have volunteered to inform the Crown Prosecutor that the money allegedly deposited in two British accounts be paid to Quattorcchi after defreezing the accounts.
'Quattrocchi's legal remedies in the matter did not yield results. It appears that he has now turned to his powerful political friends for help', the letter said.
The issue of concern to the entire country now was with regard to preventing the damage caused by the action of the Law Minister and the Additional Solicitor General of India, it said.
It said the Crown Prosecutor in Britain would obviously take action on the basis of the opinion given to him by the Additional Solicitor General and these two bank accounts were likely to be defrozen soon.
'Moneys would immediately fly out of these accounts to unknown destinations', Jaitley said adding this needed to be prevented immediately. 'If this is not done, the intention of the government of India would again directly help Quattrocchi'.
Alleging that the information given by Datta to the Crown Prosecutor about the money deposited in two British accounts 'is an extraordinary concession', Jaitley said questions on the credibility of the government and the 'Prime Minister's role in the matter are being raised'.
'Had you authorised this concession to help Ottavio Quattrocchi or were you kept in the dark', Jaitley asked in the letter. He said 'the CBI and the CBI alone is authorised to deal with this case. The Law Ministry has no locus standi in the matter'.
Under the Allocation of Business Rules, the CBI comes under the Department of Personnel of which the prime minister is the Cabinet Minister, Jaitley said.
'Who authorised the Law Ministry to deal with this matter? Who authorised the visit of the Additional Solicitor General of India to Britain? Who prevented the CBI officer from accompanying the Additional Solicitor General of India' the letter Dr Singh asked.
It said the fact that Quattrocchi was extremely close to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was perceived to be a ground for his having gained political clout and the capacity to influence the defence transaction in 1986.
'Fairness requires that since the accused has close connections in high places, the role of the government and the investigative agencies in dealing with him must conform to the highest standards of fair play, transparency and impartiality. However, events have proved that this is not so', the letter added.
The BJP also said on Sunday that it would raise the issue of government giving a 'clean chit' to Quattrocchi in the Bofors pay-off case in the coming budget session of Parliament.
"We will raise the issue in Parliament," BJP president Rajnath Singh told reporters. "We will also take to the streets."
He expressed 'surprise' over reports that Dr Singh was 'unaware' of the happenings in the Law Ministry in connection with the case.
Complete coverage: Bofors, the smoking gun