CBI diligently taking steps as per provisions of Argentinian law: Pachouri
CBI gets fresh arrest warrant against Quattrocchi Why was detention news "suppressed," asks Advani
NEW DELHI: The Government is processing the request for extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the Bofors payoffs case, with the "utmost urgency" and a CBI team is scheduled to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina, well before the expiry of the 30-day deadline on March 6, Parliament was told on Tuesday.
Tabling a statement in both Houses on "Preventive Detention of Ottavio Quattrocchi in Argentina," Minister of State for Personnel and Public Grievances Suresh Pachouri said the Central Bureau of Investigation had been "diligently preparing for making an extradition request in accordance with the provisions of Argentinian law and within the stipulated time of 30 days."
The statement came in the wake of unrelenting Opposition accusation that the United Progressive Alliance Government had deliberately suppressed the news of Mr. Quattrocchi's detention in Argentina for 17 days. The sole remaining Bofors payoffs case accused was detained by Interpol at the Iguazu international airport in the Misiones province on February 6 and the CBI made the news public on February 23.
Mr. Pachouri said that on February 7 itself, the Interpol wing of the CBI in Delhi sent a message to its counterpart in Buenos Aires, requesting confirmation of its message on the detention of Mr. Quattrocchi, and information about his flight details.
Mr. Pachouri gave a chronological account of the CBI's actions from February 7, when it received the news of Mr. Quattrocchi's preventive detention, seeking to counter the Opposition poser why the information was kept under wraps.
On February 8, Interpol, Buenos Aires confirmed Mr. Quattrocchi's detention and wanted to know whether Indian authorities were interested in his arrest and sending a formal request for his extradition within 30 days. The same day the CBI responded, confirming the same and requesting Interpol, Buenos Aires, to indicate the legal requirements for extradition in the absence of a formal treaty between India and Argentina.
"Thereafter, the CBI diligently started preparing the extradition request. The CBI availed itself of the services of translators, including that of the School of Foreign Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, for the translation of statement/documents required for the extradition request," the Minister said.
On February 12, the detention was confirmed through diplomatic channels and on February 13, the CBI wrote to the External Affairs Ministry for a copy of the Argentinian Extradition Act with English translation and a list of documents to be incorporated with the request.
The same day, Interpol, Buenos Aires, informed the CBI of the requirements of the Argentinian extradition law. The CBI, in turn, asked Buenos Aires whether it should send its team to Argentina.
On February 16, the CBI received a communication through diplomatic channels that the matter was pending in the court of the Misiones province, that the court appointed Carlos Guilleremo Daneri, Public Prosecutor, on behalf of the Indian Government, and that India would have to give an offer of reciprocity for seeking the extradition of Mr. Quattrocchi. On February 22, the CBI held a meeting with officers of the Legal and Treaty Division of the External Affairs Ministry and got the draft request vetted.
The agency also obtained a fresh arrest warrant from the court of Delhi's Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on February 24.
Mr. Pachouri said the extradition request and accompanying documents had to be in Spanish and the translation work, being technical, was time consuming. Even so, it was completed at the earliest.
On the evening of February 26, the CBI was informed that Mr. Quattrocchi had been released on bail on condition that he would not leave Argentina. "This will have no bearing on the extradition proceedings being initiated by our Government," the Minister reiterated.
However, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha L.K. Advani said the statement failed to explain why the news of detention was "suppressed."
Talking to reporters, he said the Government should have opposed bail to Mr. Quattrocchi, and alleged that "someone in the Congress-led government was keen to get him off the hook."
Mr. Advani wondered what would be the Government's approach if the prime accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts Dawood Ibrahim, who also faces an Interpol Red Corner Notice, was arrested abroad. "Mr. Quattrocchi was arrested not because of CBI but in spite of CBI."