Order on plea for closing case against Quattrocchi on Feb 21

New Delhi: A Delhi court will decide on February 21 whether to accept CBI`s plea for closing the case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, chargesheeted for allegedly receiving a payoff of USD 7.32 million for brokering Rs 64 crore Bofors gun deal.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav reserved his order on the CBI plea, observing that the case has "not moved an inch" in the last 23 to 24 years and asking the agency as to how much of total money has been spent on the probe into the case.

While reserving his order, CMM Yadav sternly turned down the plea of advocate Ajay Agrawal, who has been agitating in various courts for extradition of Quattrocchi to India, to give him some more time to provide the court some crucial information, which he expected from the Central Information Commission.

"Since, this court has heard the argument, there is no point in holding back the order for the information of the Central Information Commission (CIC). Put the matter for pronouncement of order on February 21," CMM Yadav said.

On a contention, raised by Agrawal that CBI`s plea for closing the case was against the public interest, the court asked the CBI about the total money spent on the investigation of the case.

"Do we have any rough calculation that how much money has been spent on this case. Is the figure of around Rs 250 crore, mentioned in the Delhi High Court`s order correct?," the CMM asked the CBI, which, however, said that it has no ready-made calculation.

At one point, when Agrawal, in a bid to demonstrate Quattrocchi`s closeness to the family of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was reading statements of various politicians and senior Army officials, recorded by the agency during the probe into the case, the CMM remarked that all the statements have coincidentally been recorded during the BJP regime.

During the hearing, advocate Agrawal, who has been opposing the CBI plea for closure of the case against Quattrocchi, pleaded that the court should wait for the CIC`s decision, likely to be delivered within this month, as it would prove crucial for the court in deciding the CBI`s plea.

Agrawal apprised the court that he had filed an appeal before the CIC after CBI refused to provide him information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the matter had been taken up by the CIC yesterday.

Turning down Agrawal`s plea, the court said, "Advocate Agrawal is at liberty to place on record the documents/ informations which he receives from the CIC. But he will not be given any further chance to advance his arguments in this matter."

Refusing to accede to Agrawal`s plea, the court said, "He has been heard in public interest for fairly long time.

This court does not intend to grant further time to him."

In fact, at the outset the court told him to finish his argument without fail today and not to seek any extension on any pretext, as he did on many hearings earlier.

"I would proceed with this that you (Agrawal) finish your arguments today. I have given you enough time," the CMM cautioned him.

Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, appearing for the CBI, opposed Agrawal`s submissions saying that the information which he had sought from the CIC is not at all relevant in this matter.

"The CIC`s information is not relevant in this matter.

Agrawal is wasting the time of the court," the ASG submitted.

Earlier, the court had questioned CBI`s decision to drop the case against Quattrocchi saying there were "certain malafide intentions".

"I agree that there are certain malafide intentions in the case and there is no doubt in that," the court had said.

"I understand that several malafide (intentions) were there in defreezing of bank account (of Quattrocchi) but can you verbally suggest me the ways to secure the presence of Quattrocchi after several attempts of CBI to extradite him had failed," the court had asked earlier when Agrawal contended that the withdrawal of the case against the sole accused should not be allowed.

ASG Malhotra had told the court that there was no change in 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 gun deal.

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

After completing its probe, the agency had filed two chargesheets in the case — first one on October 22, 1999 and second one on October 9, 2000.

The CBI had, in October 2009, sought permission of the court to withdraw the case against 70-year-old Quattrocchi, saying that his continued prosecution was "unjustified" in the light of various factors including the failed attempts of the agency to extradite him.

"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.