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CBI sleuths ‘surprised’
Quattrocchi (top) and the Bofors gun

New Delhi, Jan. 12: Sources in the CBI expressed surprise at the government’s stand on de-freezing of Ottavio Quattrocchi’s bank accounts in London after law minister H.R. Bhardwaj said Delhi had informed Britain it has no evidence to link the money with Bofors kickbacks.

However, the CBI officially admitted it has not found any evidence yet to link Quattrocchi’s two frozen accounts with the Bofors case.

“So far, we do not have any evidence to link Quattrocchi’s accounts with Bofors. However, the cases against him stand and they will proceed,” CBI spokesman G. Mohanty said, without disclosing whether the law ministry was briefed on this.

Bhardwaj had earlier said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the British government had over the past two years sought evidence against Quattrocchi, whose accounts they had frozen in July 2003 on India’s request.

The minister said yesterday that additional solicitor-general B. Dutta was sent to Britain to convey that Delhi does not have any evidence linking the 3 million euros and $1 million in two accounts with the Bofors payoff.

On de-freezing of the two accounts, Bhardwaj said it was up to the CPS to decide.

The Italian businessman is the lone accused remaining in the Rs 64-crore Bofors scam.

A CBI official disputed the claim that the bureau had decided to inform Britain about the lack of proof.

“How can the CBI do it when a chargesheet is pending against Quattrocchi in an Indian court and there is a red corner notice against him' If this was to be done, the CBI would have first closed the case, informed Interpol and then asked the CPS to brief the British court about lack of evidence,” say the official.

A Delhi court had asked the CBI to file a status report by March 31 on steps taken to extradite the Italian.

The court had issued an order on December 20 after the CBI said it “had not yet got any reply from Interpol regarding the whereabouts of Quattrocchi”, who has been declared a proclaimed offender.

According to sources, in a meeting of top CBI officials on November 16, it was decided that two persons ' a CBI official and a legal person from the government ' would be sent to Britain. The government was asked for permission for the trip. Then came the revelation about additional solicitor-general’s visit to Britain, the sources said.

“In case it was to be conveyed to the CPS, a CBI person should have gone to Britain,” a source said.

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