The Bofors scandal was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s; the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. The scale of the corruption was far worse than any that India had seen before, and directly led to the defeat of Gandhi’s ruling Indian National Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. It has been speculated that the scale of the scandal was to the tune of Rs. 400 million.

1] The case came to light during Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s tenure as defence minister, and was revealed through investigative journalism by Chitra Subramaniam and N. Ram of the newspapers the Indian Express and The Hindu. [2] Ottavio Quattrocchi was accused as the middleman in the scandal because of his intimacy with Rajiv and his Italian-born wife Sonia Gandhi.

Magazine cover from India Today The name of the middleman associated with the scandal was Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman who represented the petrochemicals firm Snamprogetti.Quattrocchi was reportedly close to the family of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and emerged as a powerful broker in the 1980s between big businesses and the Indian government. Even while the case was being investigated, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 for an unrelated cause.

In 1997, the Swiss banks released some 500 documents after years of legal and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a case against Quattrocchi, Win Chadha, also naming Rajiv Gandhi, the defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar and a number of others. [3] In the meantime, Win Chadha also died. [4] Meanwhile February 5, 2004 the Delhi High Court quashed the charges of bribery against Rajiv Gandhi and others,[5] but the case is still being tried on charges of cheating, causing wrongful loss to the Government, etc. On May 31, 2005, the High court of Delhi dismissed the Bofors case allegations against the British business brothers, Shrichand, Gopichand and Prakash Hinduja. [6] In December 2005, the Mr B.Datta, the additional solicitor general of India, acting on behalf of the Indian Government and the CBI, requested the British Government that two British bank accounts of Ottavio Quattrocchi be de-frozen on the grounds of insufficient evidence to link these accounts to the Bofors payoff.

The two accounts, containing € 3 million and $1 million, had been frozen in 2003 by a high court order by request of the Indian government (when the (now) opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power).On January 16, the Indian Supreme Court directed the Indian government to ensure that Ottavio Quattrocchi did not withdraw money from the two bank accounts in London. The CBI, the Indian federal law enforcement agency, on January 23, 2006 admitted that roughly Rs 21 crore, about USD $4. 6 million, in the two accounts have already been withdrawn. The British Government released the funds based on a request by the Indian Government. [7] However, on January 16, 2006, CBI claimed in an affidavit filed before the Supreme court that they were still pursuing extradition orders for Ottavio Quattrocchi.

The Interpol, at the request of the CBI, has a long standing red corner notice to arrest Quattrocchi. [8] Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on 6 February 2007, but the news of his detention was released by the CBI only on 23 February. Quattrocchi has been released by Argentinian police. However, his passport has been impounded and he is not allowed to leave the country. [9] However, as there was no extradition treaty between India and Argentina, this case was presented in the Argentine Supreme Court.

The government of India lost the extradition case as the government of India did not provide a key court order which was the basis of Quattrochi’s arrest. In the aftermath, the government did not appeal this decision owing delays in securing an official English translation of the court’s decision. [10] The Italian businessman no longer figures in the CBI’s list of wanted persons and the 12-year Interpol red corner notice against the lone surviving suspect in the Bofors payoff case has been withdrawn from the agency’s website after the CBI’s appeal. [11]


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