New Delhi: Twenty five years gone, Rs. 250 crore spent, two extradition cases lost in international arena, no “legally sustainable” evidence in hand. Underlining these, a Delhi court on Friday exonerated Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi from penal charges in the 1986 Bofors payoff case and approved a CBI application seeking withdrawal of his prosecution.
Reached for comments in Italy, Quattrocchi told The Indian Express: "I am relaxing. God bless."
While delivering the verdict, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav recited Sahir Ludhianvi: "Woh afsana jise anjaam tak lana na ho mumkin, use ek khoobsurat more dekar chhorna hi achha (It's better to end a story on a good note in case it cannot be brought to a logical end)."
"The very question which stares us at our faces is whether it is justified for the Government of India to continue to spend on the extradition of Q, which may or may not ultimately happen during his lifetime. Can we allow this hard earned money of aam aadmi of India to be spent on these type of proceedings, which are not going to do any good to them, after almost 25 years of the so-called arms deal. The answer would be a big No," CMM Yadav said in his 73-page judgment.
Adjudicating the CBI's plea on the triple test of good faith, bonafide and public interest, he said it was clear in the last 21 years when the prosecution against Quattrocchi was on that "despite spending through its nose for about these years, the CBI has not been able to put forward legally sustainable evidence with regard to conspiracy in the (Bofors payoff) matter."
While the allegation pertained to a kickback amounting to Rs. 64 crore, the CBI, by 2005, had already spent around Rs. 250 crore on the case "which is sheer wastage of public money," Yadav said.
The court accepted the contention of Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra regarding the two failed attempts to get Quattrocchi extradited that these would act as an adverse precedent for any more attempts by the Government of India.
The CMM noted that while the El Dorado court in Argentina had described the extradition proceedings as for "political reasons," the court in Malaysia had discussed, besides legalities, the merits of the case while dismissing the CBI's petitions.
"A joint reading of the judgments of both the countries would reveal that on facts of case, both countries expressed that offence of conspiracy and cheating was not made out against Q, as the terms of the agreement between the Government of India and M/s AB Bofors did not prohibit induction of foreign agents in the contract and in any case, if there was violation of any term of contract, that only leads to civil consequences and not penal consequences," the CMM said, adding that extradition requests were not entertained on sound reasoning.
Referring to a Delhi High Court judgment that had ordered quashing of a related FIR in the case, the court noted that all other accused persons, besides Quattrocchi, had either died or the proceedings against them, including those against M/s AB Bofors, had been quashed.
"Therefore, the decision of the learned Special Prosecutor of CBI, seeking withdrawal of prosecution against Q on the face of it appears to be bonafide and in the larger public interest. Accordingly, the learned Special Prosecutor of CBI is allowed to withdraw prosecution against Q. Consequently, Q stands discharged from this case," CMM Yadav ruled.
Source: The Indian Express