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Britain awaits letter on Bofors account

New Delhi, July 21: Britain has responded promptly to a CBI request to freeze the account of Ottavio Quattrocchi, the main accused in the Bofors pay-off case.

The British government has asked the bureau to send a letter rogatory by tomorrow relating to £3 million (Rs 22.104 crore) that the Italian businessman allegedly has in a London bank account.

The move comes after the CBI wrote to Britain alleging that the £3 million Quattrocchi had kept in a London bank was part of the bribe he received in the Howitzer gun deal.

Acting on the request, Britain temporarily suspended all transactions from the account till July 22. “We expect to receive a request from the Indian government,” British authorities wrote back to the CBI, asking it to send a letter rogatory for it to take further action.

CBI sources say according to British law, London cannot seize an account permanently until it formally receives a letter rogatory. Such a letter would be required to substantiate that the source of the money is dubious.

Bureau officials said they had little time to complete the process, but the letter would reach London in time. Authorities there are expected to conduct inquiries on the basis of evidence supplied by the CBI.

If the inquiry establishes that the £3 million in the bank account is tainted money, the account will be frozen permanently, a CBI officer said. Otherwise, Quattrocchi would be free to operate his account.

Interpol’s London wing recently alerted the CBI about Quattrocchi’s bank account.

The agency said: “The £3 million stashed in the bank account is a part of $7.343 million paid to him (Quattrochhi) by AB Bofors through AE Services.”

The Indian high commission in London has been asked to monitor progress in the case. Elsewhere, the CBI has asked Interpol’s Rome branch to trace the businessman. The bureau has asked it to verify an address and telephone number at Sungontenere Milan in Rome’s suburbs that it believes is Quattrocchi’s.

The businessman fled to Italy while the trial for his extradition to India was going on in Malaysia.

The Kuala Lumpur Court of Appeals, Malaysia’s apex court, turned down the CBI’s extradition plea in April. The bureau has appealed against the verdict at a larger bench of the court.

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