|The UPA core committee, which includes Sonia Gandhi and the Prime
Minister, went into a huddle on Saturday evening to discuss the Bofors controversy in the light of the Supreme Court posting the matter for Monday.
Jan. 14: The London accounts of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi were unfrozen on January 11, the day the controversy broke in India.
Possibly unaware of the development, a Delhi lawyer today approached the Supreme Court registrar with the plea that his petition against the law ministry’s report delinking Quattrocchi’s accounts and the Bofors kickbacks should be heard as early as possible.
The court, which had refused to grant an early hearing, has listed the case for Monday after the lawyer said the accounts would be defrozen in a day or two.
However, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ' the agency that decides whether there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against an individual or individuals ' told The Telegraph in London: “The restraining order was removed on January 11.”
This follows a meeting in London between B. Dutta, India’s additional solicitor-general, and CPS lawyers.
The spokeswoman said: “We met the (Indian) additional solicitor-general in December. After the meeting, we corresponded with the court and the restraining order on Quattrocchi’s accounts has been removed.”
She added: “We act on behalf of governments, for example, in extradition cases. We acted on behalf of the Indian government when the restraining order was issued.”
The spokeswoman would not divulge what was discussed between the CPS and Dutta or whether the request to unfreeze Quattrocchi’s accounts came from the Indian side.
“The request to have the restraining order removed came from us,” the spokeswoman clarified. “We corresponded with the high court.”
Asked why the restraining order was issued in the first place, she replied: “We do ask the government why they want us to act.”
It has already been reported that two of Quattrocchi’s accounts, worth $1 million and Euro 3 million, in a Swiss bank, BSI AG, have remained frozen since July 2003. Quattrocchi had applied to the High Court in London to have the accounts unfrozen.
Strictly speaking, the CPS cannot get involved if there is a difference of opinion in India over whether Quattrocchi should be given a clean chit or not. As far as the CPS is concerned, Dutta is the authorised representative of the Government of India.