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Congress, CBI collude to help Mr 'Q'

Congress, CBI collude to help Mr 'Q'

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 26, 2007

The political executive and the Central Bureau of Investigation have been caught trying to protect Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi's interests for the second time since the Congress came to power at the head of the UPA Government. Early last year, the CBI had allowed Mr Quattrocchi to walk away with Rs 21 crore after his London bank accounts, which had been frozen in July 2003 after the then NDA regime had made out a case that the money was part of the Bofors payola, were unfrozen. On that occasion, a senior law officer of the Union Law Ministry had travelled to London to plead Mr Quattrocchi's case and facilitate the withdrawal of funds widely believed to be part of the bribes paid by the Swedish arms manufacturer, AB Bofors, to secure the 155 mm field-gun deal when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister. In fact, Swiss investigators were pretty sure that the money was tainted and it was on the basis of documentation received from them that the NDA Government had sought and secured the freezing of the London bank accounts. Now it transpires that both the political executive and the CBI have colluded to suppress the information that Mr Quattrocchi was detained on February 6 by Argentinian authorities at Iguazu International Airport on the basis of an Interpol 'Red Corner' notice issued at CBI's behest in 1997. We can be sure that Interpol informed the CBI immediately about the detention; we can also take it for granted that the Argentinian Government informed our Government through diplomatic channels that one of India's most wanted men was in its custody. Since New Delhi does not have an extradition treaty with Buenos Aires, the Government of India had 30 days to submit papers, convince the Argentinian authorities and secure Mr Quattrocchi's custody. Of those 30 days, 18 have been wilfully wasted by the CBI and its political masters in trying to hide the fact of Mr Quattrocchi's detention. Worse, a week after the well-connected Italian middleman was detained, the CBI feigned ignorance of his whereabouts in the Supreme Court on February 12. By February 13, senior Ministers of the Government and CBI officials were conferring on how to keep the whole affair a secret, knowing full well they could not possibly do so.

That the Congress, more so the Prime Minister, should be interested in protecting Mr Quattrocchi does not come as a surprise; after all, the Italian's proximity to the Congress president makes him what in official parlance is known as 'Very Very Important Person'. Let us not forget that it was another Congress Prime Minister - PV Narasimha Rao - who allowed Mr Quattrocchi to slip out of India and escape prosecution if not a prolonged stay in prison. But the manner in which the CBI, which is supposed to be an autonomous investigating agency, has chosen to crawl before the regime of the day to appease those who hold the reins of power, is both shameful and debasing for the entire country. This is not about morally corrupt, spineless individuals doing the political executive's bidding to secure post-retirement sinecures. It is about bringing India's criminal justice system into disrepute. The CBI Director is entirely responsible for letting things come to such a sorry pass and making a mockery of the CBI's motto. The judiciary must take note of this, as well as the agency's brazen attempt to mislead the Supreme Court. To disregard either would be a travesty of justice for which India has been waiting for nearly two decades.

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