NEW DELHI, July 13, 2013
Controversial Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was a key figure in the Bofors payoffs scandal, has died in Milan following a stroke.
74-year-old Quattrocchi died peacefully on Friday and his funeral will take place on Monday, a member of the family told PTI on phone from the Italian city.
The Bofors chargesheet filed in 1999 by CBI had named Quattrocchi, who was close to the Gandhi family during his days in India as the representative of an Italian firm, as one of the accused in the case regarding the Rs. 64 crore payoffs for supply of Swedish Howitzer guns to the Indian Army. The Rs.1,600-crore contract was clinched in 1986.
But on March 4, 2011, a Tis Hazari court here discharged Quattrocchi from the payoffs case after allowing the CBI to withdraw prosecution against him, bringing to an end a major chapter in the 25-year-old Bofors saga. An application for withdrawal of the case against Quattrocchi was filed by the public prosecutor on October 3, 2009.
The CBI had unsuccessfully tried to extradite Quattrocchi to India but it lost two extradition appeals, first in Malaysia in 2002, and then in Argentina in 2007.
Quattrochi left India in 1993 to avoid being arrested.
Defence minister A K Antony recently said the government does not plan to launch any fresh probe into the Bofors scandal and that Quattrocchi stands “discharged” as he could not be extradited even after 20 years of registration of the case.
MORE DETAILED NEWS:
Two years after Indian courts finally withdrew all charges against him in the Bofors case, Ottavio Quattrocchi is dead.
Speaking from Milan, the Italian businessman’s wife Maria informed The Sunday Express that Quattrocchi died after suffering a stroke. He was 74.
In the course of the brief conversation, the bitterness over the Bofors kickbacks taint came through clearly: “For two decades you people of the Indian media and the courts have harassed us. Why are you calling now? He is no more,” Maria said.
The Bofors chargesheet naming Quattrocchi as the main accused was filed in 1999. Other prominent accused in the case, including former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo, Bofors agent Win Chadha and former defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, are already dead.
The Hinduja brothers, who were charge sheeted in the case in 2000, have been discharged.
Timeline of Bofors case
Quattrocchi left India in 1993 and was subsequently declared a fugitive with a Red Corner Notice against him. He never joined the trial in New Delhi, and the CBI failed in two attempts to extradite him — once from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007. The failures — once each under an NDA and a UPA government — were subjects of huge political controversy.
In several telephone interviews with The Indian Express and The Sunday Express, Quattrocchi always praised India, where he arrived in the mid-1960s as a representative of the Italian engineering firm Snamprogetti, and subsequently became very close to the Gandhi family.
After winning his case in Argentina, he told The Indian Express, “I have spent the best years of my life in India and I know there is nothing left in the Bofors case. It is the Indian courts which have given rulings that Rajiv Gandhi was not involved. The Hinduja brothers have been let off by the Indian courts. So why am I being chased across the globe? It is not good for a great country like India to draw a blank each time they press charges against a foreign national.”