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Sonia antiques case

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OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Delhi Published 06.03.03, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, March 6: The CBI is awaiting information from Italy on the ownership rights to two antique shops in Rivolta and Orbassano, allegedly owned by Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s family, after Janata Party chief Subramaniam Swamy filed a petition in Delhi High Court.

Swamy alleged in the petition that Sonia was smuggling antiques from India to Italy and getting them auctioned abroad at hefty prices.

In an affidavit filed before Justices Usha Mehra and Pradeep Nandrajog, the CBI said it had sought information through Interpol about the legal owners of the antique shops in the Italian districts.

Swamy alleged that Sonia’s mother, Paola Maino, and sister Anushka Winci owned the shops, Etinica in Rivolta and Ganpaty in Orbassano, the Mainos’ hometown in Italy.

“It is submitted that at present since no criminal case relating to the subject matter is pending investigation, it may not be feasible to send a letter rogatory to the Italian judicial authority for seeking information,” the CBI affidavit said.

The CBI did not register a case against Sonia owing to the Centre’s pressure, Swamy alleged.

“Nevertheless, the CBI has again elicited the desired information from Interpol, Rome, whose reply is awaited,” the bureau’s affidavit said.

It has been more than two months since the CBI wrote to Interpol in Rome, requesting information on the shops. Reminders, too, were sent.

The CBI had to seek Interpol’s help after the Italian foreign ministry refused to part with the information, saying the matter should be taken up by the “Indian judicial authority directly with (the) Italian judicial authority”.

The CBI expressed helplessness in verifying Swami’s allegation against Sonia in another petition, where he charged the Congress chief of receiving “financial favours from erstwhile Soviet Union’s intelligence agency KGB”.

The bureau said it was trying to crosscheck the information through available sources.

as getting details “appear improbable”.

The case will come up for hearing on March 24, as the two-judge bench did not sit for work today.

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