Sushanta Talukdar and Neena Vyas

BJP's protests on Bofors issue from today

Guwahati/New Delhi: Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party decided to take the Bofors issue to the streets, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said neither the freezing nor de-freezing of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi's London bank accounts was done on the Government's orders.

"These matters are exclusively under the functional jurisdiction of the CBI into which [the] Government does not interfere," he said reading out a statement at a press conference in Guwahati on Monday night.

Mr. Quattrocchi is an accused in the Rs. 64-crore Bofors payoffs case.

Dr. Singh said his Government never interfered with the CBI in matters of investigation. The agency's autonomy "will be preserved under this Government at all costs."

He said: "A controversy has been sought to be created about certain steps taken by the CBI in the matter relating to the freezing of the Quattrocchi bank accounts. Actions relating to both the freezing and unfreezing of these accounts have been taken at the level of the CBI in consultations with law officers as per [the] established procedure."

Earlier in the day, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi that the first demonstration against the "collusion" by the Government with Mr. Quattrocchi would be led by party president Rajnath Singh in the capital on Tuesday.

By helping to de-freeze Mr. Quattrocchi's bank accounts the Government had already done the damage, Mr. Jaitley said. The funds in the accounts, suspected to be linked to the Bofors kickbacks, would have flown in the five days since the accounts were de-freezed, he said.

Mr. Jaitley said Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi wanted to "brazen this out silently."

Mr. Jaitley reiterated the party's demand that Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, who was "directly involved in this latest Bofors episode" be dismissed.

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