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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera!

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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera!
#4
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Bhardwaj, the latest exorcist</b> 
Pioneer
A Surya Prakash 
AB Bofors, the Swedish arms manufacturing company from which we purchased field guns for our Army in the mid-1980s, paid Ms Sonia Gandhi's friend Ottavio Quattrocchi $7.30 million as commission for facilitating the Bofors-India deal. This sum was paid to a front company called AE Services, which in turn transferred the funds to Swiss bank accounts operated by Maria and Ottavio Quattrocchi. These are facts that are well established and fully corroborated by bank documents obtained by Indian investigators from Switzerland.

That is why the ghost of Bofors returns every now and then to haunt the Nehru-Gandhis. Instead of acknowledging Quattrocchi's role as a middleman and offering a public apology for having such friends, the family has hired many an exorcist - B Shankaranand, Madhavsinh Solanki, HR Bhardwaj, et al., - to exorcise this ghost. However, all of them have failed because the Swiss bank documents and the proceedings before the Swiss courts clearly establish the nexus between the Bofors payments and the Quattrocchis.

Law Minister HR Bhardwaj's clean chit to Ottavio Quattrocchi is only the latest attempt to exonerate the Italian businessman and thereby snap the link between the payments and the Nehru-Gandhi family. The family has tried unsuccessfully in the past to achieve this objective. The first attempt was made soon after Swedish Radio broke the story about bribes paid by Bofors to secure the India contract. As the news paralysed Parliament and Congress MPs themselves began doubting the vehement denials by their leader, Rajiv Gandhi agreed to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.

This gesture, however, failed to carry conviction because the JPC's terms of reference were wholly inadequate. Further, Rajiv hand-picked Shankaranand, a family loyalist, to head the JPC. Disappointed with the Government's response, the Opposition boycotted the committee. The Congress party made the best of the boycott, packed the committee with sycophants and secured a report from this crony committee that no commissions or bribes had been paid by Bofors. Shankaranand declared that there were no middlemen or agents.

The media soon uncovered middlemen and commissions. Quattrocchi was among those who had been paid by Bofors. There were other commission agents like Win Chaddha but Quattrocchi was special. He was a dear friend of the Gandhis. A fresh attempt was made to bury the scandal after PV Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister in 1991. Madhavsinh Solanki, the External Affairs Minister in that Government, handed over a note to his Swiss counterpart ostensibly containing a request from the Indian Government to retard the investigations into the Bofors' payoffs. When this became public, Prime Minister Rao denied having cleared the note and Solanki lost his job in the Cabinet.

Ms Gandhi's Italian friends Maria and Ottavio Quattrocchi have been a source of embarrassment for the Nehru-Gandhi family and for the Congress party for many decades. He represented the Italian firm Snam Progetti in India and barring a couple of years stayed in India for almost three decades from 1964. He flew out of the country in haste in 1993 after it was conclusively established that Bofors had paid him a hefty commission for clinching the India deal.

Persons who have held portfolios like Chemicals and Fertilisers and Petroleum in the Union Cabinet when the Congress party was in power have had to cope with this ill-mannered Italian who brazenly flaunted his connection with the Gandhi family and swung deals in favour of the company he represented. On one occasion, a Minister who held the Chemicals and Fertilisers portfolio in the Rajiv Gandhi Government had to ask Quattrocchi to leave when the latter barged into his residence without an appointment. Quattrochi, the story goes, threatened to teach the Minister a lesson for the "insult" heaped on him. Within weeks the Minister lost his job.

It was, therefore, not at all surprising to find that Quattrocchi had knocked off a hefty commission in the Bofors deal. Initially, when the Rajiv Gandhi Government invited bids and asked the Army to conduct field trials, the main contenders for the contract were Sofma of France, AB Bofors of Sweden and Voest Alpine of Austria. Sofma was in the lead for much of the two-year period when the Army was evaluating the guns but Bofors got ahead in the final stages and won the contract in March, 1986. A year later, Swedish Radio broke the story about payment of bribes by Bofors. Rajiv Gandhi's political stock nose-dived when the scandal broke out primarily because of his unwillingness to have the bribery charge investigated by a commission or agency that was trusted by his accusers.

The conclusions drawn by the Shankaranand JPC were debunked in no time by the media which hit upon evidence to prove that Bofors had paid commissions to several individuals to secure the contract. Quattorocchi was among the recipients and what was intriguing was the manner in which he suddenly came into the picture to lick the cream off the Bofors cake. As stated earlier, the French gun Sofma was clearly the favourite to win the contract. Suddenly, at this stage a queer thing happened. A company called AE Services came on the scene in November, 1985 and entered into a strange contract with Bofors.

This contract guaranteed AE Services three per cent commission if the India contract was concluded before March 31, 1986. The contract was signed on March 24, 1986 - a week before the expiry of this deadline. Two months later, India paid Bofors 20 per cent of the contracted sum and the company promptly transferred US $7.343 million (equivalent of three per cent of the amount paid by India) to the AE Services Account in Nordfinanz Bank, Zurich. Investigators following the AE Services trail found that the commission from Bofors had been transferred by this company to the Swiss bank account operated by Maria and Ottavio Quattrocchi in the name of Colbar Investments.

On August 6, 1987, when the Lok Sabha decided on a parliamentary probe into the payoffs, the Quattrocchis transferred these funds to yet another bank account operated by them. Once the Indian investigators laid their hands on these bank documents, the Quattrocchis took to their heels. Thereafter the Interpol put out a red alert for Ottavio Quattrocchi. CBI officials who raided the offices and residence of the Quattrocchis came up with substantial evidence to establish the close nexus between the Quattrocchis and the Gandhis.

Only a person who had such a close relationship with the Prime Minister could have guaranteed Bofors that he would clinch the deal within five months and also fulfill this promise one week before the deadline. The Bofors-AE Services contract is so damning that persons associated with Quattrocchi owe India an explanation. Ms Gandhi must tell us why her friend Quarrtocchi was paid US $7.3 million by Bofors when we purchased field guns for our Army when her husband was the country's Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Law Minister HR Bhardwaj's assertion that there is no case against Quattrocchi must be challenged. The Bofors case has seen gross political interference and put a question mark on constitutional principles like rule of law and equality before law. Should we allow foreigners like Quattrocchi and his friends and sympathisers in the Congress party and the Union Government to make a mockery of our legal/ judicial system? Will our Constitution and the political system survive such onslaughts? This is a matter that deserves the most immediate attention of the judiciary.

<b>The latest attempt via the Law Minister should surely set aside doubts in the minds of some congress supporters about the Quattrocchi-Sonia connection. Those who have been tracking the Bofors Payoffs Scandal have often warned that bailing out Quattrocchi would be a top priority for Ms Sonia Gandhi once she got political power in her hands. We can now see that she is on the job. But the media has its job cut out too. It must probe why Ms Gandhi is so keen to bail out Quattrochi. </b>
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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-15-2006, 09:53 AM
The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-16-2006, 10:08 PM
The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-16-2006, 11:57 PM
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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-17-2006, 11:53 AM
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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-20-2006, 04:06 PM
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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 01-21-2006, 01:31 AM
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The New Instalment Of The Bofor's Soap Opera! - by Guest - 02-13-2006, 07:28 AM
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