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Bofors ghost haunts Cong again
Rs 41 cr paid to Win Chadha, Quattrocchi as kickbacks, says tribunal
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
Even as the ruling Congress and its UPA Government was struggling against Opposition’s (read BJP) attempt to paint it as “corrupt” and “scam-ridden”, it received another jolt in the form of an income-tax tribunal order that reiterated kickbacks in the 25-year-old Bofors gun deal.

The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal bench of RC Sharma and RP Tolani held that late Win Chadha did receive commissions and, therefore, was liable to pay income tax on the amount not mentioned in the IT returns filed by him.

The tribunal said kickbacks were paid to Italian businessman Otavio Quattrocchi and Win Chadha in the nearly Rs 1,500 crore Bofors deal.

The kickbacks violated rules as middlemen were illegal in defence deals in India. Therefore, Quattrocchi and Chadha were liable to pay income tax on bribe money they got while living in India, the order said. It also claimed that due to the kickbacks, India had to pay almost Rs 160 crore extra for the guns.

The deal had raised considerable stink and stigmatised the image of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the late 1980s, ultimately resulting in the defeat of the Congress in 1989. That was also because one of the persons named as the beneficiary of the kickbacks in the Bofors deal was Quattrocchi, who was considered close to Rajiv Gandhi through his Italian wife Sonia Gandhi.

The case was handed over to the CBI and eventually closed, ostensibly for want of adequate proof. Recently, the CBI got Quattrocchi’s accounts defreezed.

The order, meanwhile, has given fresh ammunition to the BJP, which promptly demanded reopening of the case, registering a fresh FIR and constitution of a Special Investigative Team (SIT) to launch fresh investigation into the over two decades old Howitzer gun deal with Swedish firm Bofors.

As the tribunal order came, veteran Bofors critic and Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley got into the act. He ridiculed the five points mentioned by Sonia Gandhi at the recent AICC plenary session to eradicate corruption, saying, “Ironically for Sonia Gandhi, there is no need to talk of five points. Just one point is enough -- send the corrupt to jail and don’t’ cover up.”

Already leading the BJP charge for a JPC probe into the 2G Spectrum scam, Jaitley got new strength from the order. “This was not merely a case of bribery… bribery was accompanied by a huge cover-up operation… nobody has answered the questions which this order raises… why was Quattrocchi paid the money?"

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi expectedly played it: “We have to see the order -- what context, what detail -- and then we will certainly react.”


1986: India signs Rs 1437 cr deal with Bofors AB for the supply of 155 mm field Howitzer guns. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others accused of receiving kickbacks in the deal.

1989: The scandal leads to the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi's ruling Congress in the General Election.

1997: CBI files a case against Quattrocchi, Win Chadha, Rajiv Gandhi, ex-defence secretary SK Bhatnagar and a number of others. Swiss banks release some 500 documents after years of legal wrangling.

2006: Interpol issues a red corner notice to arrest Quattrocchi.

2007: Quattrocchi detained in Argentina, but released later as CBI fails to win his extradition legally.

2009: The Centre informs the Supreme Court that it has decided to stop all prosecution against Quattrocchi.

Win ChadhaWho’s Win Chadha

A primary figure in the Rs 640 million Bofors scam, Win Chadha was an agent of Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors. He was charged with receiving some of the Rs 640 million kickback in the Rs 14.37 billion deal. He passed away on October 24, 2001.

Otavio QuattrocchiWho’s Otavio Quattrocchi

An Italian businessman, Otavio Quattrocchi was being sought until early 2009 in India for acting as a conduit for bribes. In February 2007, he was detained in Argentina on the basis of the Interpol warrant, but the CBI lost the case for his extradition.





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