Saturday, May 26, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Judge orders separation of Bofors trial
Hindujas, Win Chadha to be tried on July 9

New Delhi, May 25
In a significant ruling, a Delhi court today ordered separation of trial in the Rs 64 crore Bofors payoff scandal to allow the case to proceed even in the absence of former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo and controversial Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.

Citing a Delhi High Court ruling, Special Judge R. L. Chugh said the trial in the case would proceed against the Hinduja brothers — Srichand Prakashchand and Gopichand — former Defence Secretary S.K. Bhatnagar, Bofors agent Win Chadha and the AB Bofors company.

The trial of Martin Ardbo and Quattrocchi will be taken up separately after they are arrested and brought to India.

The judge ordered the trial of the six accused would commence on July. The CBI has been pressing for separation of the trial to expedite the case as the extradition proceedings against Quattrocchi and the arrest of Martin Ardbo are likely to take some time.

On April 27, the high court had asked the CBI to delink the trial of the accused who are already before the court here and those who are yet to be extradited. The court had given the permission while denying permission to the Hindujas to go abroad.

The Hindujas had been arguing that they be allowed to go abroad as the trial in the case was unlikely to start before Quattrocchi and Ardbo joined the proceedings.

Mr Justice S.K. Aggarwal, however, said the lower court must hold the trial as expeditiously as possible, preferably on a day-to-day basis. In case the CBI fails to conclude its evidence within six months from the first date of hearing, then the Hindujas may seek permission to go abroad.

In that eventuality, the court would consider their pleas on the condition that they deposit $ 11.84 million along with 10 per cent annual interest from January 1, 1990, till the date of payment in any nationalised bank in a fixed deposit.

The three Hinduja brothers have been charged with receiving 81 million Swedish kroners from the arms manufacturer AB Bofors for fixing the Rs 1,437 crore deal for 155 mm Howitzer guns in 1986. They first appeared before the trial court on January 19 subsequent to the court issuing summons against them, after taking cognisance of the CBI charge sheet filed on October 12 last year.

Additional Sessions Judge Ajit Bharihoke granted them bail but directed them to appear before the CBI for interrogation. They were also told not to leave the country without the court’s permission.

During hearings, the Hindujas had sought permission to go abroad as their homes, families and businesses are in London and Geneva. The Bofors trial is in the initial stages and its conclusion may take several years or decades.

While India has initiated attempts to extradite Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is currently based in Malaysia, no such attempts have been made against Swedish executive Martin Ardbo who headed the Bofors company at that time.

The CBI claimed the documents obtained from the Swiss authorities pointed to the Hindujas involvement in the Bofors gun deal and that the money paid as kickbacks was deposited in their accounts. UNI


Cyclone shows signs of weakening
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 25
Still reeling under the after-effects of a devastating quake, Gujarat faces the threat of yet another natural fury with the Meteorological Department saying that the fears of a severe cyclonic storm hitting the coastline still cannot be ruled out.

“Satellite pictures have shown that the cyclone has been stationary for some time now. It has shown some weakening since its peak on May 24, with the eye not being very well-defined. However, this is a severe cyclonic storm with the speed of wind reaching upto 160 kmph and therefore the intensity cannot be said to have been reduced to safe levels”, the Director General of the IMD, Dr R.R. Kelkar told mediapersons here today.

Reports reaching from Gujarat said there had been a notable reduction in the speed of wind from the earlier peak of 200 kmph.

However, the Gujarat administration, which already has its hands full with the massive rehabilitation exercise due to quake, is not taking any chances and has started evacuating people from coastal areas to minimise the losses in case the cyclone hits the state.

High alert has been sounded in the coastal areas warning fishermen not to venture into the sea. Cargo handling activities have been temporarily called off in all major ports in the state.

If the cyclone hits Gujarat, this will be third time in four years that the state would be inflicted by such a storm. The state was hit by cyclone in 1998 and 1999 killing more than 2,500 people.

Dr Kelkar said the cyclone, which originated due to a low depression development on May 21, has only two analogues in the recorded past.

Cyclonic storms of such magnitude on India’s western coast had been recorded only twice in the past - 1961 and 1976, added Dr Kelkar.

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