The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clock ticks on late-riser CBI

New Delhi, Feb. 24: If the CBI is serious about bringing Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi from Argentina, it will have to race against time to begin extradition proceedings.

The CBI has a March 5 deadline to move the court in Argentina to seek custody of Quattrocchi who was arrested at Iguazu international airport in the Misiones province. Considering that it has lost a fortnight in “verifying” the information about the Italian businessman’s detention, it will have to work hard to make the most out of the remaining days.

After drawing flak for keeping the information under wraps, the CBI stirred today, forming a six-member team to co-ordinate the operation to bring the Italian back. The team will hold consultations with the Indian embassy in Buenos Aires to hire a law firm to fight its case in the Argentina court. Some officials will also be sent to Argentina “when required”.

The decision to send the team would have to be taken fast as the travel time between Delhi and Buenos Aires is not less than 20 hours. The fastest way to reach Buenos Aires is by taking a direct flight to Chicago and then going to Miami before flying to Buenos Aires. It takes another one-and-a-half hours to reach Iguazu, where Quattrocchi has been kept.

According to the rules, the extradition request from India can be entertained only if it is made within 30 days of the detention. Quattrocchi was taken into preventive custody on February 6.

Before the CBI launches itself into the task of hiring a law firm and preparing a strong legal case, it is treading with caution as history is not on its side.

The hunt to catch Quattrocchi has proved futile in the last 10 years. The investigative agency lost an extradition case against Quattrocchi in 2002 in Malaysia after the Italian businessman convinced the court that the case against him was politically motivated. He took the same plea to get his bank accounts defrozen in London last year.

The CBI today denied keeping the information about Quattrocchi’s detention under wraps. The agency director claimed that the verification of the facts and the translation of documents from Spanish to English took time.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said today India would follow established rules to extradite Quattrocchi. “We will follow the set government rules and the CBI has been entrusted with the responsibility (of extraditing Quattrocchi),” Mukherjee told reporters.

To another question, Mukherjee said the Indian government has not yet talked to the Argentina government on the extradition of Quattrocchi.

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