Ottavio language gap

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  • Published 24.02.07

New Delhi, Feb. 24: Highly-placed sources have said news of Ottavio Quattrocchi’s detention in Argentina was passed on to New Delhi in English, casting a cloud on the claim that translation from Spanish is a reason for the two-week delay in making the information public.

“It took time because of the verification of facts and translation of documents from Spanish to English,” CBI director Vijay Shankar said today.

However, on February 9, the Indian embassy in Buenos Aires alerted New Delhi “in English” that Quattrocchi had been detained three days ago, a source said. Soon after, the foreign ministry informed the investigating agency, which had already been told of the detention by Interpol.

The Interpol communication could have been in Spanish. But the CBI issued a statement last evening — a fortnight after Delhi was told in a language it understands that the Bofors case accused has been held on the basis of an Interpol notice.

On February 16, Indian officials did receive a document in Spanish — but that dealt with the extradition law in Argentina, not the detention itself about which the alert had come a week earlier. Even on the Spanish document, the officials’ language skills were not put to too much of a test. An English version landed from Argentina three days later.

Asked about the language disconnect, a government official turned the professed reason on its head, saying the delay was because of the need to translate documentary evidence against Quattrocchi from English to Spanish for use in Argentina. That explains the delay in starting proceedings in Argentina, not in making the detention public.

The sources said that till 9 pm IST on Saturday, the Indian embassy in Argentina had not been contacted by any official from Delhi on extradition proceedings.

Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said the “set government rules” would be followed. But he conceded that India had not yet talked to the Argentina government.

“It (the extradition) is the main responsibility of the CBI,” he added.

If the CBI is serious about bringing Quattrocchi back, it will have to race against time. The CBI has a March 5 deadline to move the court in Argentina to seek custody of Quattrocchi who was arrested in the Misiones province.

The CBI today formed a six-member team to coordinate the operation. The team will hold consultations with the Indian embassy in Buenos Aires to hire a law firm. Some officials will also be sent to Argentina “when required”.

The decision to send the team will 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 the Argentina capital is by taking a flight to Chicago.

The next halt is Miami and then Buenos Aires, from where it takes one and a half hours to reach El Dorado in Misiones, where Quattrocchi is being kept.