“GOI [Government of India] officials may feel that, for political reasons, they need to be perceived as being concerned about extraditing Mr. Anderson. Although this does not currently appear to be a high priority bilateral issue for the GOI,” reads a document sent to the United States State Department from the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai. The documents were obtained from the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the American equivalent of the Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The documents, available with the activists pursuing the case of Bhopal gas tragedy victims, reveal that the extradition of Warren Anderson, the then CEO of Union Carbide, prime accused in the criminal case against him and 11 others, might be more complicated than it appears.
Another letter by the Consulate, dated July 6, 2004, cites the advice of the then Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee in 2001 “efforts should not be made to extradite Mr. Anderson as there was inadequate evidence to link him directly to the cause of the gas leak”.
However, according to H. Rajan Sharma, counsel for the plaintiffs in the U.S. against the Union Carbide Corporation, there were several instances that prove the direct involvement of Anderson in decisions that eventually caused the leak.
For instance Anderson’s decision on cost cutting — the plant’s refrigeration had been non-operational for three months and the strength of the operating staff rescued from 12 to six members at the time of the gas leak — in response to letters from UCC (New York) expressing concern over dwindling profits.
The pressure exerted over the U.S. government by the U.S. business lobby, whose interests and concerns would be threatened by it, appears to be a significant factor in the unaccomplished extradition of Mr. Anderson.
A letter written by Joseph E. Geoghan, Union Carbide’s Chief International Counsel, to U.S. State Department review authority Archie M. Bolster (dated July, 24, 2003) reveals why the business community didn’t want Anderson extradited.
“The request [to extradite Mr. Anderson] should be rejected. No issue has greater potential to destroy U.S. business leaders’ confidence in India than the handling of the Warren Anderson case.” Mr. Geoghan goes on to call the extradition request “sheer hypocrisy” and that its “chilling effect on American investment abroad cannot be overstated.”
Linda Jacobson, Assistant Legal Adviser of the U.S. Law Enforcement and Intelligence Department then wrote to Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, convincing him that the business community’s concerns would be taken into account.
She writes: “We are aware of the importance of this issue to the U.S. business community… We have learned a great deal about the concerns of the Union Carbide and the U.S. business community… We have also received and reviewed written documentation from the private sector related to these concerns.” The then Secretary of State Colin Powell also assured Mr. Donohue that the State Department was aware of the concerns of the business community.