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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!
#19
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Giving unto Caesar... </b>
Pioneer.com
Sandhya Jain 
The mills of god grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. The Bible says their inexorable grinding brings the most arrogant offenders to justice. As several high profile accused in the Bofors kickbacks scandal slip through the butterfingers of a tardy investigative system and a conniving polity, Ms Sonia Gandhi may yet emerge as the sole victim of the whole sordid affair.

Never directly accused of corruption, yet insidiously insinuated in every deal struck by fellow Italian Mr Ottavio Quattrocchi since she entered the household of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Ms Sonia Gandhi now stands in danger of being indicted at the bar of public opinion as an accessory to crimes linked with the her Roman countryman.

<b>Her stubborn silence in the face of a national furore over signor Quattrocchi making off with nearly Rs 21 crores from surreptitiously released bank accounts in London,</b> which were frozen after he was identified in legal documents as a recipient of the Bofors illicit payoff, reinforces her image as a sinister manipulator of the Indian political and legal system.

Regardless of rhetoric churned out by the Congress president's spin doctors, few will believe she had no hand in the sudden move by the UPA Government to give the Italian a clean chit before Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, resulting in the speedy de-freezing of his bank accounts and his prompt denudation of the same.

Mr Quattrocchi's apparent triumph in thus recovering his moolah has had a demoralising effect upon Indian public opinion, and many commentators have tacitly endorsed the view that the case is as good as over. Yet I believe that the underhand manner in which the former Snam Progetti employee was given a clean chit by <b>Union Law Minister Mr HR Bhardwaj and facilitated in recovering his ill-gotten gains has brought the Bofors smoking gun directly to Ms Sonia Gandhi's door. </b>
In the lifetime of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, few opposition leaders felt it manly to link his wife with kickbacks associated with lucrative foreign deals. Thus, even as her dour, unsmiling visage cast huge shadows over his political career and personal credibility, Ms Sonia Gandhi escaped public odium because he insulated her from direct scrutiny.

Of course, no one knew then that a fellow Roman had been entrusted with the collection of nearly a third of the Rs 64 crore payoff. That revelation came during the tenure of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who was sufficiently intimidated by the signora to permit Mr Quattrocchi to escape to Kuala Lumpur, even as pressure mounted for impounding his passport and arresting him in the case.

<b>Interpol issued a red alert for the Roman, who publicly blackmails the Congress president by proclaiming his intimate ties with her family even as she pretends amnesia, and Malaysia was considering India's request for extradition when a Single Judge gave a highly questionable judgment on a Friday, enabling Mr Quattrocchi to flee before an appeal could be filed on Monday and a stay obtained against his departure</b>.

Now, a similar deliberate confusion of legal process has enabled him to grab monies identified with the Bofors kickbacks. Since the sole purpose of the obfuscation in London was to help him get (and perhaps share) this money, it is unlikely that the UPA regime will press Interpol to deliver this personal friend of its supreme leader to stand trial in the Bofors bribery case.

Yet the Indian people have the right to know why a friendly European country has failed to respect the Interpol alert and arrest Mr Quattrocchi. Mr George Fernandes has pointedly asked Ms Sonia Gandhi why she does not ask her friend to return to India and clear his name, and her sullen silence only aggravates her complicity.

Ms Sonia Gandhi has denied herself the fig-leaf of being a housewife who is being unfairly targeted by opposition leaders on account of her foreign origins. After playing a cat and mouse game with the late Narasimha Rao, she grabbed power in the Congress in a tasteless, un-Indian-style coup against the late Sitaram Kesri; her acolytes roughed up senior leaders likely to resist her ascension. Today she is the Congress president, a sitting MP from Rai Bareilly, and UPA chairperson - in short, a complete political animal.

Since it was Ms Sonia Gandhi who introduced Mr Quattrocchi to the household of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, she personally owes the nation an explanation why Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors paid the Roman to swing the gun deal via AE Services, which transferred the funds to Swiss bank accounts operated by Mr Quattrocchi and his wife, Ms Maria. Not only was Ms Quattrocchi then an Italian public sector employee, but he entered the picture literally at the last moment, and promptly put the French gun Sofma out of the way. A front company called AE Services signed a contract with Bofors in November 1985 stipulating a three per cent commission if the contract was signed before March 31, 1986, as indeed it was.

This commission moved in and out of several bank accounts to conceal its origins with AB Bofors, but dogged Indian investigators followed the bank trail and linked the funds with the Quattrocchis, prompting them to flee the country. The tangible links between Mr Quattrocchi and the Bofors money, and between the Italian and the Gandhi family, may have led Ms Sonia Gandhi to believe that helping him to get the money would both silence him and put the case in permanent cold storage. As if on cue, sponsored voices in the media began claiming that the Bofors investigation has cost the nation more money than the bribes paid, and that larger scandals have surfaced since, and hence the case should be closed.

In response, the Supreme Court has taken the view that if the Centre and the CBI felt that pending cases against Mr Quattrocchi should be dropped, they "should have gone to the criminal court (where the trial is pending)," a virtual stricture against the UPA regime and its de facto supremo. The CBI's belated claim that it sent Additional Solicitor-General B Datta to London without the knowledge of the Law Ministry or the Department of Personnel and Training (headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh), is a post-dated cheque on a failed bank.

Mr Singh has done well to dissociate himself from the de-freezing of Quattrocchi's London accounts. To the extent that he can be considered complicit in the affair, it is as a subject who has given the demanded dues to the Congress Caesar. In short, whichever way one looks at the London chapter of the scandal, the inescapable conclusion is that Ms Sonia Gandhi has incriminated herself and given substance to the belief that naturalised citizens should be debarred from positions of political responsibility, and certainly from constitutional posts. Not only is their loyalty suspect, but the gamut of their personal associations can never be fully known, thus leaving ample space for external manipulation.

Media savvy acolytes of the Congress president complain that she has revived a defunct scandal and undone the painstaking work of the spin doctors who whitewashed the fact that her foreign origins checkmated her prime ministerial ambitions in 2004, and projected her as the epitome of self-sacrifice. Bofors may affect Rahul Gandhi's proposed elevation in the party, but the more lasting effect will be a hardening of attitudes among coalition partners.
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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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