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Ottavio case bar on Delhi’s lawyers

Kuala Lumpur, Dec. 10 (PTI): India’s efforts to extradite Bofors kickbacks suspect Ottavio Quattrocchi suffered another blow today when a Malaysian high court judge refused to let lawyers appointed by New Delhi argue the case.

Judge Augustine Paul, who is hearing the appeal for a review of a lower court decision to discharge the Italian businessman, said the deputy public prosecutor should continue to handle the case even though the Malaysian attorney-general wanted it to be handed over to India’s Malaysian lawyer.

Rejecting the authorisation made by the attorney-general of Malaysia, Paul said: “I am bound by the law and cannot allow the attorney-general of Malaysia to pass the fiat” under the Malaysian Extradition Act.

However, the judge said: “I may have given a different ruling if the authorisation was done under Article 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

He explained that such authorisation was allowed if the lawyers are from the country requesting the extradition.

On Monday, the judge had said the Indian and Malaysian governments had jumped the gun by not establishing the fact whether the charges against the Italian businessman were a criminal offence under local laws.

Paul also asked the lawyers to define what a special judge in India meant by saying there was a “prima-facie” case against Quattrocchi.

“When you come tomorrow for the proceedings, you must tell me what is the meaning of ‘prima-facie’ as used by the special judge in India,” Justice Paul said, referring to the warrant issued by a special judge in New Delhi.

He also asked the lawyers to explain if the crime Quattrocchi has been accused of was considered a criminal offence under Malaysian law, adding there might be no local equivalent.

Paul asked Malaysian deputy public prosecutor Kamarulhisham Kamaruddin to establish whether the Indian charges against Quattrocchi were valid in Malaysia and said both countries had jumped the gun by not establishing this before launching extradition proceedings two years ago.

“We have to find the Malaysian equivalent of the offences the defendant (Quattrocchi) is alleged to have committed under Indian laws,” he added.

There is no problem with the cheating and conspiracy charges but where was the equivalent of the charges of corruption in Malaysian law, the judge asked.

“These, in fact, should have been clarified both by Indian and Malaysian governments before embarking on extradition proceedings,” he said.

Quattrocchi’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that there was no case against his client, as the charges against him did not comply with Malaysian law.

“My client was arrested (in Malaysia), he had to pay bail, his passport was confiscated but he was not even told what were the charges against him,” Shafee said. The Indian warrant of arrest is so bad, it is unbelievable.”

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