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Congress terms Bofors used cartridge
BJP calls it a farewell gift to Quattrocchi

Aditi Tandon/Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Cong unmasked: Maya

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Tuesday cited the CBI giving a clean chit to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors case as a fresh example of the Congress misusing the CBI. Addressing a press conference, Describing the CBI's decision as “unfortunate”, she called upon the Central government to make sure that the investigating agency takes back its decision so that the guilty should be punished. Substantiating her point of the Congress reportedly “manipulating” the CBI, BSP supremo said it had, in a similar manner, given clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, an accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, despite there being enough evidence against him. — TNS

New Delhi, April 28
In the midst of crucial Lok Sabha elections, the Bofors issue returned to haunt the Congress, with the BJP and the Left today slamming the government for gross misuse of the CBI, which has withdrawn the Interpol red corner notice against principal accused Ottavio Quattrocchi.

Reports suggest that the decade-old notice against Italian businessman Quattrocchi has been removed from Interpol website, following CBI’s request.

Starved of issues, an aggressive opposition jumped today at the first sight of something to bite on, with the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate holding UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and PM directly responsible “for colluding in the conspiracy to bury the Bofors truth”. He hoped the issue would engineer a repeat of 1989 when Rajiv Gandhi lost power to the scandal. The BJP further described the move as Congress’ “farewell gift to the nation-in-law, which it made in desperation as it knew it was not coming back to power”. The party promised an enquiry into CBI’s alleged collusions, if voted to power, blaming the Congress for “complete sabotage of the autonomy of government institutions”.

A defensive Congress was quick to dismiss all allegations, with spokesperson Anand Sharma calling Bofors a used cartridge the opposition had fired several times over. “The Congress has nothing to do with the Interpol’s decision to remove the notice against the Italian businessman. It is for the court to decide if the CBI took the right decision,” said Sharma, recalling how millions of dollars were spent in V.P. Singh’s time to gather evidence in the case and none was found.

“When L.K. Advani was home minister and Arun Jaitley his law minister, what prevented them from extraditing and prosecuting Quottrocchi?” asked Sharma, insisting Bofors was a non-issue, a dead horse the opposition loved to flog.

As the matter set the stage for a slugfest between the political opponents, law minister H.R. Bhardwaj rose to government’s defence, terming BJP’s allegations as politically motivated. He said the government had no role in the judicial process, adding, “Interpol issued the notice on the basis a non-bailable warrant against Quattrocchi. Later, during extradition proceedings against the accused in Argentina it was found that there was no such warrant. The Court therefore ordered him to be freed.” The law minister further explained that red corner notices were issued for five years. “When the notice against Quattrocchi was about to expire, the CBI referred the matter to Attorney General (AG) for legal opinion. AG having gone into the matter of wrongful detention of the gentleman in Argentina...opined that it was not sustainable order,” Bhardwaj maintained.

The CBI for its part said the case had been under trial since 1999. “The CBI has taken action on the basis of legal advice of the highest order. We will inform the court on the next date of hearing -- April 30,” said CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal.

The so-called “highest-order advice” came from Attorney General Milon Banerjee who called the notice against Quattrocchi “a continuing embarrassment and one that could not remain in force forever as two attempts to extradite Quattrochi had already failed.”

As the dead scam stood resurrected, a determined BJP said the CBI had become a huge embarrassment for the country and would to be investigated thoroughly if it came to power. Party general secretary Arun Jaitley in his caustic remarks slammed the Congress saying, “The only achievement of UPA has been the misuse of CBI to wipe the stains off its tainted ministers.”

Anand Sharma of the Congress retorted along expected lines, “This is a typical case of double standards the BJP uses for electoral gains. But they cannot fight several elections on one non-issue. Even Jaitley knows there is no evidence or case.”

Interestingly, Bofors took political centre stage today -- 23 years and seven governments down the line, when Win Chaddha, an important player in the scam, is long dead and Hindujas brothers have also been exonerated.

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