New Delhi, July 13 (PTI): Controversial Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was a key figure in the Bofors payoffs scandal, has died in Milan following a stroke.
74-year-old Quattrocchi died “peacefully” yesterday and his funeral will take place on Monday, a member of the family told PTI on phone from the Italian city.
The Bofors chargesheet filed in 1999 by CBI had named Quattrocchi, who was close to the Gandhi family during his days in India as the representative of an Italian firm, as one of the accused in the case regarding the Rs 64 crore payoffs for supply of Swedish Howitzer guns to the Indian Army. The Rs 1,600 crore contract was clinched in 1986.
But on March 4, 2011, a Tis Hazari court here discharged Quattrocchi from the payoffs case after allowing the CBI to withdraw prosecution against him, bringing to an end a major chapter in the 25-year-old Bofors saga. An application for withdrawal of the case agains Quattrocchi was filed by the public prosecutor on October 3, 2009.
The CBI had unsuccessfully tried to extradite Quattrocchi to India but it lost two extradition appeals, first in Malaysia in 2002, and then in Argentina in 2007.
Quattrochi left India in 1993 to apparently avoid being arrested.
Defence minister A K Antony recently said the government does not plan to launch any fresh probe into the Bofors scandal and that Quattrocchi stands “discharged” as he could not be extradited even after 20 years of registration of the case.
Antony had told Parliament that Quattrocchi had left India on July 29-30, 1993, before CBI had “any material evidence warranting his arrest” in the Bofors case. The scandal had cost Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress the 1989 General Elections.
With the measures undertaken by the CBI failing to get Quattrocchi extradited from Malaysia and Argentina, he now “stands discharged from the case”, he added.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav, in his 73-page order, while discharging the Italian noted that the CBI, despite “spending through the nose for about 21 years, has not been able to put forward legally sustainable evidence with regard to conspiracy in the matter.
Further, in the case of Mr. Quattrocchi, as against the alleged kickback of Rs.64 crore he received, the CBI had by 2005 already spent around Rs.250 crore on the investigation, which is sheer wastage of public money.”
The grounds stated by the CBI in 2009 for withdrawal of prosecution were: more than 19 years had passed since the first case was registered in 1990; all the other accused had died or proceedings against them had been quashed by the Delhi High Court; attempts to extradite Mr. Quattrocchi from Malaysia and Argentina had failed; and the Delhi High Court in 2004 had knocked out allegations of corruption or conspiracy with public servants.
Under the circumstances, the application seeking withdrawal of prosecution “appeared to be bona fide and in the larger public interest,” Yadav had said.
In his order, Yadav also quoted from the February 4, 2004 High Court judgment, to indicate that the CBI had failed to prove that the money transferred by A.B. Bofors (Swedish arms company) to various agents including Quattrocchi was meant to be paid as a bribe to public servants in India.
He also cited the orders of Malaysian and Argentinean courts, which were unconvinced by the offences made out by the CBI against Mr. Quattrocchi.
On February 6, 2007, Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on the basis of the Interpol warrant.
CBI came under attack for allegedly putting up a half-hearted effort towards his extradition and India lost the case for his extradition in June 2007 with the judge remarking that “India did not even present proper legal documents”.
The Bofors scandal erupted after a 1987 report on Swedish radio, claiming that Bofors had paid bribes to secure the contract.
Quattrocchi, born in Mascali, province of Catania, Sicily, is reported to have arrived in India in the mid-1960s as the representative of Italian oil and gas firm Eni and its engineering arm Snamprogetti.