| Ottavio Quattrocchi leaves a court in Kuala Lumpur in December 2002
New Delhi, Feb. 23: The Bofors gun never runs out of ammunition.
Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman and the last remaining accused in the Bofors case, has been detained in Argentina on a pending Interpol notice.
He was taken into preventive custody by Argentina authorities on February 6 at Iguazu airport while he was on his way to Buenos Aires.
The CBI has requested the foreign ministry to seek his extradition through diplomatic channels. If Delhi decides to seek his handover, it will have to make concessions to Buenos Aires as there is no extradition treaty with Argentina.
The Interpol red corner notice was issued in 1997 at the behest of the CBI, which is investigating charges that kickbacks of Rs 64 crore were paid by Bofors to Indian politicians when Rajiv Gandhi was in power. But the CBI could not nail any politician in court.
Although many consider the Bofors scandal a dead legal issue, the potential damage to the Congress-led government lies in the revelation that the Centre kept quiet about the detention of Quattrocchi, once a close friend of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The detention was announced today through a CBI statement but the capital was abuzz with reports that the Prime Minister had convened a meeting around February 13 to discuss the issue. Home minister Shivraj Patil, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and law minister H.R Bhardwaj attended the reported meeting.
The government is certain to be sucked into another Bofors battle right at the start of the budget session.
CBI officials tried to explain the delay by saying it took time to confirm the developments abroad and translate Spanish documents.
The Italian’s son was apparently in the capital this month to attend a non-Congress leader’s party where the political elite were present.
In January last year, Quattrocchi’s bank accounts were defrozen in London after India failed to furnish evidence against him.