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Sonia's politics - II - The Statesman

A G Noorani ()
January 30, 1998

Title: Sonia's politics - II
Author: A G Noorani
Publication: The Statesman
Date: January 30, 1998

V P Singh became P M on December 2, 1989. On December 30 he made
a definitive statement quoting from the records. On 22 January
1990 the CBI filed the FIR. Only four days later a Geneva court
froze six bank accounts and a Zurich court froze the AES account
by 30 April 1990 the Courts had received all the documents. If,
like the Zurich papers, the ones in Geneva did not arrive in
India till 21 January 1997 - with some yet to come - it is
because frantic attempts were made in New Delhi and Geneva to
prevent their arrival. Sonia Gandhi could not be unaware of

They began with a petition by an obscure H S Choudhary on 13
August 1990 to quash the letters rogatory. A chain of events
followed - Justice M K Chawla, S famous judgment of 19. December
1990 which the Supreme Court set aside only on 27 August 1991;
yet pronounced judgment only on 28 August 1992. It devoted 75 of
its 92 pages to well-known cases on public interest litigation
and gave an opening to "specified persons" to challenge the


Win Chadha filed a petition in consequence. It was admitted by
the Delhi High Court on 10 September 1991, allowed by Chief
justice G C Mittal and Satpal J on 2 September 1992, and set
aside by the Supreme Court on 17 December 1992. These
proceedings, from August 1990 till the end of 1992 had the
intended effect. Examination of letters rogatory was suspended by
the Criminal Court of Appeal in Geneva on 23 January 1991. In
February 1992, none other than Foreign Minister Madhavsinh
Solanki tried to burke the probe by the infamous letter at Davos.

However, within a month after the Supreme' Court's judgment,
Judge Patrick Blaser rejected the Geneva account-holders' pleas.
On 29 January 1993, he delivered a 51-page judgment upholding
charges of bribery, fraud anon forgery. Seven appeals against it
were dismissed on July 12, 1993. On July 29 the names of the
appellants - the holders of the tarnished accounts - were
officially revealed. They were Gopichand, Prakash and Srichand
Hinduja, their jubilee Finance; Win Chadha and his Svenska Inc;
and Ottavio Quattrochi. He fled India a week later in the dead of
night 29-30 July 1993 as only thieves do. It was the FIR of
January 1990 which produced the results.

It is unnecessary to trace the events since. Suffice it is to say
that only honest judicial process in Geneva and a vigilant public
opinion in India foiled New Delhi's games. A senior Federal
Police Officer said in Berne on 10 April 1996": "The Indian
Government does not seem to be serious about knowing the names of
the beneficiaries in the controversial gun deal". We had to do
with a politicised CBI. On 30 June 1997 Inder Gujral contributed
his mite towards its politicisation by replacing its Director
Joginder Singh with R C Sharma.

Sonia fools nobody by her pretensions of concern about the delays
in the probe. The most withering retort came the very next day,
on 16 January from the head of Sweden's National Bureau of
Investigation, Sten Lindstrom, which the indefatigable Chitra
Subramaniam reported: "Sonia Gandhi has urged the

Government to- put all the papers relating to the Bofors case on
the table. That's a very good idea. I think she should do the
same... The bribes have been traced to her friend and this is not
something out of the blue. This is no coincidence... All
information we had at that time (when the investigation was
stopped) pointed to the Gandhi link. Sonia Gandhi should place
cards on the table".

Nor will any be deluded by her plea: "I will be the happiest
person if the Bofors papers are made public". This sinister
demand was made in Parliament as far back as on 30 May 1990 by P
Chidambaram, Dinesh Singh, and Vasant Sathe, in order, no doubt,
to scuttle the probe by breaking the Indo-Swiss Accord in Mutual
Assistance in Criminal Matters concluded on 20 February 1989.

Sonia Gandhi knows very well that, so far from being "the victim
of malicious and slanderous propaganda in the Bofors case" Rajiv
Gandhi was the prime villain in this and other scandals as well -
the HDW submarines, the Westland helicopters and the Airbus A-320
planes, to mention a few. Will the Chairperson of the Rajiv
Gandhi Foundation, which prides itself on its concern for the
down-trodden, explain why her husband's Government instructed the
Indian delegation to the U N General Assembly to abstain, for the
first time over, on a vote in which South Africa's apartheid
regime was to be censured? The HDW, a German concern, not only
gave South Africa blue prints of the submarines it had sold to
India, but also some "sensitive details" which compromised
India's security completely. This disclosure was part of its deal
with South Africa, signed on 15 June 1984. It deserves detailed

Ursula Eid, a Green M P, wrote to Rajiv Gandhi about it in June
1988 but received no reply. "Sources in West Germany inferred a
deal - India would not raise a stink about this and Germany would
not reveal the kickbacks.


The deal was far more sordid as an article by Chitra Subramaniam
and N Ram disclosed, with full documentation in The Indian
Express of 21 May 1990. It is quoted in extenso: "On 22 November,
1989, under specific instructions from the Rajiv Gandhi
Government, the Indian delegation to the 63rd meeting of the
United Nations General Assembly abstained in a vote that retained
a condemnatory reference to the West German firms and to West
Germany in connection with the supply to South Africa of
blueprints for the manufacture of submarines and other related
military material. The abstention came on a motion related to the
U N General Assembly resolution A/44/L. 34/rev.1 entitled
"Military collaboration with South Africa".

"The U N General Assembly voted on the question of retaining the
reference to the two corporations and the Government of West
Germany in the operative paragraph 1 of the resolution: 'l.
Strongly deplores the actions of those state and organisations
which directly or indirectly continue to violate the arms embargo
and collaborate with South Africa in the military, nuclear,
intelligence and technology fields and, it particular, Israel for
providing nuclear technology and two corporations based in the
Federal, Republic of Germany, for supplying blueprints for the
manufacture of submarines and other related military material and
calls upon Israel to terminate forthwith such hostile acts and
upon the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to honour
its obligations tinder Resolution 421 (1977) by prosecuting the
said corporations'.

"In the recorded vote, the verdict went in favour of retaining
both the references to West Germany by 53 to 45, despite
intensive lobbying by -Bonn and the Western powers.
Significantly, India was among the 38 countries which abstained.

"This meant that for the first time in U N history, India failed
to vote in favour of a specific anti-apartheid measure thus
breaking ranks with the front-line states, other forces within
the Non-Aligned Movement fighting apartheid on an uncompromising
basis and socialist countries including China and the USSR."


But how is it that so sensational a volte-face was not reported
by our news agencies as it should have been on the morrow of 22
November 1989, for the nation to know? And, what do you make of a
Rajiv Gandhi Who performed the sordid feat, not in the interests
of the state, but in his own?

In May 1990, German media revealed that between November 1981 and
July 1982, HDW made two remittances to two Swiss accounts in
connection with the Indian deal - 91.4 million DM was paid into
the Mundo Thea Investment Corporation, of all the places in the
Liberian capital, Monrovia, and 9.9 million DM to Doreland Inc,
also in Monrovia. A PTI report with a Bonn, 2 April dateline
quoted a report in the weekly Stern based on documents disclosing
the details of payments: "This is known to the Government in
India" said "a source close to HDW". A total of Rs 112 crores was

The HDW scadal was parent to the Bofors one in two ways. The
former became public on 9 April 1987, a week before the Swedish
broadcast, through a press release by V P Singh's Defence
Ministry. Besides, Sweden's shipyard Kockum's defeat at the hands
of to HDW made Bofors wiser. "Persons very close to Sanjay
Gandhi" told them: "Don't be sorry you lost this deal. Try to
learn from it for the next time so that you can handle your cards
better." From then on the Swedish Government and the Swedish
weapons industry concluded that they must "not be so honest" as
Per Wendel reported on 16 March 1990. Even by the summer of 1984
the Swedes had concluded that "The final decision (on Bofors) is
in the hands of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv who both have an
interest in the deal". Anders Bjorck said this on 15 March, 1990
as Vice-President of The Swedish Parliament's Constitutional

As heir to Indira Gandhi, Rajiv simply took over the on-going
parleys on HDW and Bofors, replacing Sanjay. It was a family

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