The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Q out on bail the day CBI opened mouth

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Just when the country was agog on Friday night with 17-day-old news of Ottavio Quattrocchi’s detention on the other side of the globe, the Bofors accused was being freed on bail in Argentina.

As the news of the February 23 release became public this evening — again after a three-day delay — a beleaguered CBI pointed out the silver lining: Quattrocchi cannot leave Argentina till “investigations” are complete.

But the expectation of another uproar in Parliament tomorrow will have ruined the Centre’s mood, lightened by Lalu Prasad’s railway budget.

CBI director Vijay Shankar said the agency learnt about the latest twist from Interpol at 7.43 this evening. The delay is surprising, considering that Interpol had told the CBI about Quattrocchi’s detention the day after it happened.

It is learnt that on February 16 — a week before the Italian businessman got bail — the foreign ministry had warned the CBI about his possible release.

The blow comes two days before a two-member CBI team leaves for Buenos Aires to file the extradition case. The team will reach Argentina late on March 2 morning.

An added concern is that the law officer in the CBI team cannot speak Spanish and may have difficulty communicating with the local lawyer hired by India. Government sources said they were not hopeful about the extradition.

Contacted over the phone in Buenos Aires, an assistant to India’s local lawyer told The Telegraph: “We cannot give any interview on the phone. We have a special order from our court not to give any information.”

Quattrocchi was granted bail after an Argentinian court found out that the charges against him -- cheating and conspiring to cheat -- were bailable offences in India. But it impounded his passport and asked him to stay in the country till further orders.

The Indian case, to be filed under Article 25 of Argentinian law, will be presented by Argentinian prosecutor Karlos Dhaneri.

In the absence of an extradition treaty — a claim the BJP disputed today citing a Raj-era pact with Argentina — the Centre is considering invoking the UN Convention against Corruption to which both Delhi and Buenos Aires are signatories. But officials said there were some riders to this option.

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