Court allows plea for withdrawal of case against Quattrocchi

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday allowed a CBI plea seeking withdrawal of prosecution against elusive Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the two-decade-old Bofors payoff case.

"The application of the CBI is allowed," Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav said.

"If the logical conclusion of a case is not possible then it is better to leave the issue," he said.

"How long we will spend through our nose the hard- earned money of the aam-aadmi" in pursuing the case, the judge said while referring to the amount of over Rs 200 crore already spent in the investigations.

The CMM while passing the order said that the CBI did not go into the merits of the case while advocate Ajay Agrawal opposed CBI`s plea on merits.

Regarding the locus standi of Agrawal in this case, the CMM said, he "doesn`t have any locus standi in this case."

The CMM said that he had also gone into the aspect of larger public interest as raised by Agrawal.

Agrawal, however, said that he will appeal against the order of the court. 70-year-old Quattrocchi "cannot have special privilege because of his closeness to late Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi," he alleged.

The CMM noted that the heavy amount of money "wasted" on the investigation into this case was on his mind while writing the judgement.

Quattrocchi has never appeared before any court in India.

The CBI had in October 2009 sought permission of the court to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi, saying his continued prosecution was "unjustified" in the light of various factors including the agency`s failed attempts to get him extradited — first from Malaysia in 2003 and then from Argentina in 2007.

A charge sheet was filed against Quattrocchi for allegedly receiving a payoff for brokering the Bofors gun deal.

The CBI had registered a criminal case on January 20, 1990 to probe who were the beneficiaries of the payoffs in the 1986 Bofors gun deal.

After completing its probe, the investigative agency had filed two charge sheets in the case — first on October 22, 1999 and the other on October 9, 2000.

The CBI had contended that there was no change in the government`s stand on withdrawing the case against Quattrocchi in the wake of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order, which had said that kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the howitzer deal.

"The continuance of prosecution against Quattrocchi will be unjustified. It is considered expedient in the interest of justice that the proceedings against him should not be continued and be withdrawn," the CBI had pleaded in its nine-page application seeking withdrawal of case.

Advocate Ajay Agrawal, who has been pursuing the case in the Supreme Court and had approached the trial court against the CBI`s move to seek a closure of the case, had contended that the Centre and the agency were trying to close the case despite having sufficient evidence against Quattrocchi.

The plea was countered by the CBI which said it was difficult to secure presence of Quattrocchi for prosecution and, moreover, all other accused are either dead or charges against them have been quashed by the Delhi High Court.