The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday filed an application in a trial court here seeking permission to withdraw prosecution against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the more than two decades-old, multicrore Bofors payoffs case.
He remains the lone accused facing prosecution.
During trial, Mr. Quattrocchi and another accused, Martin Ardbo, president of AB Bofors, failed to appear before the court and their trial was separated. Martin Ardbo has since died. All the other accused have either died or the prosecution against them has been quashed.
Now, filing the application under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CBI special public prosecutor U.S. Prasad said: “It is considered expedient in the interest of justice that proceedings against Mr. Quattrocchi should not be continued and be withdrawn.”
He cited five reasons:
“(a) 23 years have passed from the date of alleged offence and more than 10 years have elapsed after registration of the case;
(b) all the co-accused have either died or proceedings against them have been quashed, including proceedings against Messrs A.B. Bofors and the alleged beneficiaries of the contract for supply of the Bofors guns, by virtue of the judgments of the Delhi High Court, and no appeals have been preferred by the CBI either against the order of Justice (retd.) J. D. Kapoor or the judgment of Justice (retd.) R. S. Sodhi of the Delhi High Court;
(c) even though there is an undertaking by Messrs A.B. Bofors prior to entering into the contract that they do not have any representative/agent specially employed in India, I notice that the original contract does not provide for any prohibition for employment or non-employment of Indian or foreign agents. I also notice that full payments in regard to the contract have been paid to Ms. A.B. Bofors even after the lodgement of FIR. I find that no steps to recover any monies were adopted against the Bofors;
(d) in view of the judgment of Justice Kapoor, any allegation of corruption or conspiracy with regard to public servants is knocked out;
(e) and in any event, the attempts to secure the presence of Quattrocchi from Malaysia and Argentina have failed. I find that the Malaysian court has also touched upon the merits of the matter.”
Mr. Prasad further said: “The present application for withdrawal of the prosecution is being filed bona fide, in good faith and in the public interest.”
“In view of the above, I find that continuance of the prosecution against Quattrocchi would be unjustified.” Taking the CBI application on record, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Kaveri Baweja said she would take it up, along with two separate applications filed by two advocates seeking rejection of the plea for withdrawal of prosecution, on October 9.
“Strangers to case”
Earlier, Additional Solicitor-General P. P. Malhotra urged the court to dismiss the two applications filed by the advocates, submitting that they had no locus standi as they were strangers to the case. However, the court asked him to file an affidavit in reply by the next date of hearing. Mr. Malhotra agreed to do so.
Ajay Agarwal, one of the two applicants, said he had every right to intervene in the matter as a complainant, as the crime had been committed against society and huge amounts looted from the public exchequer.
No closure report
The proceedings began with Mr. Malhotra clarifying that the CBI was not filing a report seeking closure of the case against Mr. Quattrocchi. Rather it was an application to withdraw the prosecution against him under Section 321 of the Code.
Mr. Malhotra cited a number of Supreme Court judgments where it was held that while deciding an application for withdrawal of prosecution against an accused, the trial court was not supposed to appreciate the evidence of the case or the grounds on which the prosecutor had sought withdrawal of prosecution but should only see whether or not he acted independently without being influenced by anybody or extraneous reasons.
Mr. Malhotra said the CMM’s powers were very limited so far as withdrawal of prosecution in the case was concerned. She was not empowered to see the quantity or quality of evidence which might lead to acquittal or conviction.
Mr. Malhotra will continue his arguments on October 9.