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Respite for Quattrocchi

New Delhi, April 30: The Malaysian Court of Appeal today rejected India’s request to extradite Bofors case prime accused Ottavio Quattrocchi.

The court rejected the Indian plea to review the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling dismissing their request for Quattrocchi’s extradition.

The three-judge bench of the court also quashed its earlier order asking Quattrocchi to surrender his passport.

CBI sources said their only option now was to approach the top Malaysian court at a later date when the case takes its final shape since the extradition request was rejected on “technical grounds”.

India had moved the highest court through the Malaysian attorney-general, following the high court’s rejection of the extradition plea on the grounds that the offences allegedly committed by the Italian businessman were “open to doubt”.

“In my view, the failure to supply the court and the respondent with the charges is fatal,” high court judge Augustine Paul had said in his December 13 order last year.

CBI officials said the failure to extradite Quattrocchi would not have much impact on the Bofors case, as they have got information on the kickbacks in the purchase of howitzer gun.

The agency has also written to Italy, asking them to confirm if Quattrocchi was in the country.

CBI sources said they had information that Quattrocchi had left Kuala Lumpur for Italy before December 16, 2002 — the day he was asked to surrender his passport pending India’s appeal against the high court ruling quashing the extradition request.

But the CBI has not received a reply. It is believed that Italy is not in favour of extraditing its nationals.

Hinduja acquittal row

Counsel for the CBI and the Hindujas clashed in the Supreme Court today on the acquittal of the three brothers in the Bofors kickback case.

Appearing for the CBI, solicitor-general Kirit Rawal argued that the Delhi High Court order acquitting the brothers — Srichand, Prakashchand and Gopichand — was wrong as prior approval from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to prosecute an accused in a corruption case need not be taken by the CBI.

Counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the Hindujas, countered this by saying that the CVC was entrusted with the “superintending power” and that the CBI was to report to the CVC before chargesheeting the Hindujas.

The high court had quashed the chargesheet last May on the ground that the CBI had not taken prior approval from the CVC before filing chargesheets against the three brothers.

Rawal contended that the high court had “misconstrued” the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Vineet Narain case, also known as the Jain hawala case. The apex court had settled the law relating to investigating agencies and made the CVC a “superintending body”, to whom the CBI, the IB and other prosecuting agencies should report.

This, Jethmalani said, was not followed in the Bofors case.

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