This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Back From The Dead

From Feb 2007

Some things just never go away.

There is a man called Ottavio Quattrocchi. Once, from the sixties to the eighties, official representative of Italian construction firm Snamprogetti in India, he was very influential in Indian official circles due to his extremely close friendship (nowadays strenuously denied) with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's son (and later successor) Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian born wife Sonia (now de facto leader of India). This stood securing business contracts.

Then, in 1987, it was revealed that Bofors AB of Sweden had paid bribes to Indian "middlemen" to secure the selection of its FH 77B 155mm howitzer for the Indian Army the previous year (the gun was trailing in second place when suddenly it was selected ahead of its rivals). Allegations flew thick and fast that Rajiv Gandhi himself was among recipients of the slush funds. While Gandhi was an arrogant, insensitive, frequently puerile individual (I recall him on TV taking part in a marathon for publicity purposes roughly shoving aside those in his way with both hands, declaiming in parliament that anyone questioning the scale of defence purchases was automatically anti-national, driving over peacocks in the way of his speeding car, and holidaying on the Indian Navy's then aircraft carrier Vikrant) it is true that there is no evidence proving that he personally received a single rupee of the "kickbacks" paid.

However, he, and his wife, were quite undoubtedly instrumental in helping guilty individuals evade justice, among whom were Ottavio Quattrocchi, into whose accounts the money had been paid. Quattrocchi's passport, despite investigative agency CBI's requests, was not impounded; in July 1993, he was allowed to flee India after being mysteriously tipped off that his arrest was imminent. There is an Interpol red corner warrant against him.

In the meantime, in 1991, Rajiv Gandhi had been blown in half by an LTTE suicide bomber after he lost an election fought primarily on the corruption issue, and after his successors made such a mess of things he would have been voted back to power as the least of available evils. His Congress party had won the subsequent election and PV Narasimha Rao was the new Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi had bided her time to make a play for power behind the throne, which role she plays now. Bofors was quietly buried; another set of accused, the Hinduja brothers, were acquitted after insufficient evidence was produced against them in the High Court (deliberately?) and the CBI, as it could have, did not appeal to the Supreme Court. (For non-Indians - the CBI is a political animal; it can't move a step without government approval). Here is what Wikipedia has to say on what happened afterwards:

On October 22, 1999, with the BJP-led NDA government in power, theCentral Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a chargesheet against Quattrocchi, naming AE Services as a front company run by Quattrocchi and his wife Maria. Based on 500 documents released by Swiss banks after protracted legal delays, the CBI framed charges against Quattrocchi and his wife, Maria; WN Chadha and his wife, Kanta. Among the conspirators named in the case were Rajiv Gandhi, and some other party functionaries. It is believed that Quattrocchi had been paid 3% of the sale, about US $ 7 million, as commission.
Attempts to extradite Quattrocchi from Malaysia failed owing to lack of compelling evidence and in 2003 Quattrocchi returned to Italy.
Around this time, two accounts owned by Quatrocchi were discovered in the British branch of a Swiss bank; they were frozen till in December 2005, the Indian government itself, in which Sonia Gandhi is now the ruler behind the throne, asked for the freeze to be lifted. By the time a hue and cry was raised, Quattrocchi had naturally withdrawn the $4million in the accounts. 
A friend in need is a friend indeed...
Remember that all this time Quattrocchi still had an Interpol red corner notice against him. He may himself have forgotten about it; in any case, he travelled to Argentina and the current leftist government arrested him on 6 February. The arrest was communicated instantly to the Indian embassy, and on 9 February to the CBI, and India was told an application with evidence for Quattrocchi's extradition might be favourably received (there being no extradition treaty between India and Argentina). 
What happened?
The CBI sat on the news for two weeks. Not a peep came out of it. Then the news came out, and the CBI claimed that it took them two weeks to translate the arrest news from Spanish to English! Further ridiculous "explanations" followed. The fact remains that the Indian authorities have till 5 March to present evidence to the Argentinians or they will let Quattrocchi go. Even reaching Argentina takes not less than 20 hours of flying, without making allowance for flight delays. And the latest is that a team of two CBI people will leave for Argentina on February 28. They will presumably arrive on March 1 or 2. The third is Saturday and the fourth, Sunday. So it leaves them precisely a day or two at the most to get him extradited...assuming they are actually carrying any evidence at all.
If that team succeeds in bringing Quattrocchi back, I shall consider eating my Russian naval cap. 
As I said, a friend in need is a friend indeed, especially when by helping they cover their own complicituous ass.
If only, they must be saying, the dead would just stay dead.

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