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CBI mum on Quattrocchi issue

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: January 12, 2006 14:02 IST
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Central Bureau of Investigation chose not to speak on the controversy involving defreezing of bank accounts of Ottavio Quattrocchi, one of the key accused in the Bofors gun deal in which Rs 63 crore was taken as kickbacks or commissions from the Swedish firm.

CNN-IBN, a television channel in an investigative report, had claimed that the government of India had sent a senior advocate holding the post of additional solicitor general to Britain to convey this to the British government in December 2005.

"We have seen the report in the concerned television channel. We have nothing to say on the matter," G Mohanty spokesman for the CBI told on Monday.

Win Chaddha, Dubai based arms dealer and S K Bhatnagar, former defence secretary to the government of India, who had been named as co-accused in the CBI chargesheet have died during the course of the hearing of the case.

A senior CBI official pointed out that the case was still in the court and it is for the court to decide whether the government decision to convey to the British government about defreezing of Quattrocchi's accounts was a positive step or not. "Let the court give its verdict on this matter," he said.

He admitted that the ministry of law and justice dragged its feet on filing a special leave petition in the Supreme Court of India challenging the order of Justice R S Sodhi of the Delhi high court who had acquitted the three Hinduja brothers -- Shrichand, Gopichand and Prakash -- in the case.

"The decision to go to the court is that of the government and we could have only suggested going to the apex court, which CBI did. Now if the government says that there is nothing in the case we have to abide by the decision of the government in power," said a former official of CBI who at one stage had played crucial role in bringing back the bank papers from Switzerland.

Quattrocchi has two bank accounts in Britain where he had allegedly stashed his kickback money.

H R Bhardwaj, the Union minister for law and justice, has claimed that the government did not do anything illegal by telling the British government that it should defreeze the accounts of Quattrocchi. "It was done by the counsel for CBI. Why should we hold back someone's money when there is no evidence against the person concerned. The case has been going on for last 15 years or so and nothing has come out so far. We are merely following the developments in the courts," he told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.

Arun Jaitley, former minister of law and justice, who was instrumental in getting the first information report registered in this case, was not willing to buy the government claim. He sees a clear motive behind the developments in the case.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi