New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday it was dropping the case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi for his alleged involvement in the Rs64 crore Bofors bribery case that has dogged the ruling Congress party for more than two decades.
Solicitor general Gopal Subramanium told a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishanan that the CBI has decided to close the case based on the Delhi high court judgement of 2004 which held that there was no instance of corruption in the Bofors deal involving the purchase of guns for the armed forces dating back to the 1980s.
Corruption charges: Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi is the lone surviving suspect in the two-decade-old Bofors bribery case. Teh Eng Koon / AP
Quattrocchi, the lone surviving suspect in the case, was known to be close to the family of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the late husband of current Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. The opposition used the Bofors scandal to help defeat the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1989 elections after the scandal broke in 1987.
Subramanium also said that all efforts to extradite Quattrocchi have failed.
The CBI’s decision to close all cases against the businessman comes days after a Delhi court allowed the CBI two weeks’ time for exploring the options available to it in the Bofors payoff case following the withdrawal of Interpol’s Red Corner notice against him.
The ruling Congress party said the CBI’s view should be respected.
“If the CBI, given the factual positions and the events that had taken place in the last two-and-a-half years, has come to a conclusion that there is nothing to do further legally on this, its opinion should be respected,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said that the move amounted to a betrayal of the nation.
“The CBI, which should have pursued the trail of the Bofors money, had instead allowed Quattrocchi to go scot-free,” he said. “The premier investigative agency, rather then pursuing the case and bringing the culprits to book, was engaged in a ‘Save Quattrocchi’ campaign.”
Tewari rejected the opposition party’s argument, saying judicial reverses in the case had come when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power.
“If the NDA wanted to proceed with the case vigorously but could not do it, it shows that it has no legal legs to stand on,” he said.
(Liz Mathew and Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.)