Pressure from high places forced me out of the probe: B.R. Lall

With payoffs in the Bofors guns deal under the spotlight again, an ex-CBI officer who supervised the case has claimed that alleged Hawala dealer S.K. Jain told the probe agency he and Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi received kickbacks from projects — including the howitzer deal — routed through them.

Citing a written submission made by Jain on March 13, 1995, former joint director of CBI, B.R. Lall, who was supervising the case then, said, “the duo [Jain and Quattrocchi] has taken the contract in partnership and has close connections [in high places].

“The Hawala dealer, in his submission to the CBI, had said that he used to take 3 per cent of the project cost as commission while seven per cent of the total amount was received by Quattrocchi as kickback. The duo was getting 10 per cent of the commission against cracking deals with the government,” Mr. Lall told PTI on Tuesday.

He claimed that he faced ‘pressure' from influential persons, including politicians and officials of the late then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's office, and was shifted out of the probe.

“I faced pressure when the agency officials were probing the case as we gathered [a lot of] evidence against influential people for their involvement in the Bofors case. As a result I was shifted out of the investigations,” the officer claimed.

A Rs. 15-billion-contract between the Indian government and Swedish arms company AB Bofors was signed for the supply of over 400 155 mm Howitzer field guns on March 24, 1986.

Initially, the CBI had registered a complaint on Jan 22, 1990 and, after a thorough investigation, set up a special investigation team for the case on January 30, 1997.

CBI files, first chargesheeted, named late Bofors agent Win Chadha, Mr. Quattrocchi, former Indian defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar, former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo and Bofors company on October 12, 1999.

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