|Quattrocchi no different
from Dawood: Advani
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
NEW DELHI: The Quattrocchi issue rocked Lok Sabha on Wednesday with an angry opposition demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's explanation over why two London bank accounts of the Italian businessman, key accused in the Bofors pay-offs case, were defrozen at CBI's behest.
Describing Ottavio Quattrocchi as "no different a fugitive" than underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, leader of the Opposition L K Advani asked Singh, who was present in the House, why Government had a "soft corner" for the Italian.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Advani termed as "misleading" statements coming from the Prime Minister, Law Minister H R Bharadwaj and the CBI and wanted to know why the accounts were defrozen when the investigating agency had submitted to a local court that a red corner notice against Quattrocchi was still in operation.
The agitated BJP members along with Akali Dal, JD-U, Shiv Sena and BJD trooped into the well when Government fielded Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachauri to respond to opposition's onslaught.
Chanting slogans "Pradhan
Mantri jabab do" (Prime Minister should reply), they demanded that nothing
short of an explanation from him would do.
"I totally condemn the method adopted (by the opposition)," Chatterjee said as he adjourned the House nearly for two hours ahead of the lunch recess.
Some Congress members were up on their feet when Advani referred to Quattrocchi as a person who does not believe in the Indian law system and is a "friend of Sonia Gandhi's family".
Wondering why the Government has gone out of its way to get Quattrocchi's accounts defrozen, he said no officer of the government like B Datta, Additional Solicitor General, could go to London without permission of the Prime Minister.
Claiming that CBI was never in favour of defreezing the accounts, he said the Prime Minister should inform the House about who asked the agency to clear the way for Quattrocchi to withdraw money from these accounts.
Advani asked why Government had not gone in for appeal in the Supreme Court in the Rajiv Gandhi case and Hinduja's case.
He sought to know who was "misleading" the country -- the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, the Law Minister or CBI Advani contended that while the Prime Minister said he was not aware of the law officer going to London, the Law Minister held that there was no evidence against Quattrocchi in the Bofors payoffs case and that the accounts were defrozen at the request of CBI.
"It is for the Government
to answer", he said as the opposition insisted that the Prime Minister
have been defrozen'
According to CBI sources, a communication was received from the CPS to this effect informing them about the decision of the British High Court of defreezing the accounts.
The communication from the CPS follows a request by the CBI on Monday to the British prosecution service seeking details about the status of the two bank accounts and also conveying to them the order of the Supreme Court asking the agency to communicate to the UK authorities for maintaining a status quo on the two accounts.
The British authorities had frozen the two accounts -- 5A5151516L and 5A5151516M -- with BSIAG Bank London, having three million Euros and one million dollars respectively -- in July 2003 and the CBI had claimed that the money could be part of kickback allegedly received by Quattrocchi in the Rs 64 crore Bofors payoff case.
However, the CBI communicated to the CPS in December last year that the agency had so far not been able to link the money with the Bofors kickbacks, a move which eventually led to defreezing of the accounts besides creating a political uproar in the country.
Govt denies giving any clean chit to Quattrocchi
NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Monday denied it had given a clean chit to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused in the Bofors payoffs scandal, saying it had only furnished Britain's information on the basis of which his two London bank accounts were revived.
"No clean chit has been given to anyone in any case. Confusion has been spread in this regard," Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal told the BBC Hindi service.
The British authorities "had sought information on...whether any charge has been proved till now. It is our compulsion to answer a query on the basis of facts as they exist on the day information has been sought. How can one say that a clean chit has been given to anyone?" Jaiswal maintained.
Law Minister H R Bharadwaj and Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachauri have been under fire from the opposition since it was revealed last week they had facilitated the London visit of Additional Solicitor General B Dutta to inform the Crown Prosecution Service that there was no evidence to show that the kickbacks paid by Bofors to secure an Indian Army order for field guns had been deposited in Quattrocchi's accounts.
Dutta had visited London Dec 22 and Quattrocchi's bank accounts were revived January 11.
On Monday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that has been prosecuting the Bofors case, attempted to take the heat off the government by saying it had recommended that Quattrocchi's accounts be revived.
According to Jaiswal, "information sought by the British authorities was with regard to money frozen in British banks. It was asked whether any proof had been found (about the money being part of the Bofors kickbacks) and should this money continue to be frozen.
"The status as it existed on the day of giving information has been conveyed to the British authorities. No clean chit has been given to anyone in any manner, neither has anything been said on whether Quattrocchi is innocent or guilty," Jaiswal said.
Asked why the government prevented the CBI from sending its representative along with the additional solicitor general, Jaiswal retorted: "I think questions should not be raised on everything.
"If the government does not respond on time, your criticism would be that we sleep over matters, if we respond then the criticism is of undue haste.
"Criticism in a democracy is a matter of right, but everything should not be seen with suspicion," he said.
Government says no evidence
Law Minister HR Bhardwaj said the Crown Prosecution and the British government had over the past two years sought evidence against Quattrocchi.
The British government had frozen Quattrocchi's bank accounts in United Kingdom and offshore islands on India's request three years ago.
"The Crown prosecution had
sought the status of the investigation and we have conveyed to them the
recent rulings of the High Court rejecting the case against the Hinduja
brothers," Bhardwaj said. Asked whether the government would not appeal
against the unfreezing of the accounts, he said "CBI has given the details
sought by the Crown Prosecution and it is upto them."
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