Bofors case and the Hindujas

Mr. K. Madhavan, advocate and former Joint Director, CBI, writes in a letter to the Director, CBI:

I have read the amusing news item in TheHindu dated May 7, 2000 titled, ``CBI in a quandary over Hindujas offer.''

I presume that Mr. Mukund Padmanabhan of TheHindu has given this news on his own surmise regarding the supposed quandary of the CBI rather than on the basis of any official or informally official briefing by the CBI.

During 1990-1991, I was in charge of the Bofors case as Joint Director in CBI till I was removed from the case on October 21, 1992 under pressure from the then Prime Minister, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, and a VVIP lady, who was an extra-constitutional authority. When I was on a visit to London in January 1991 for liaising with Interpol, U.K., regarding the investigations to be conducted in the U.K., I was directed by the Director, CBI (Mr. R. Shekhar) that I might examine the Hindujas also. They refused to meet me in the Indian High Commission in London. They invited me to their house for their interrogation to be followed by lunch! As I had no police power in the U.K., I could not summon them to any place of my choice. Finally, after approval by the Director, CBI, I agreed to interrogate them in the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall, London.

In my career spanning 30 years in the CBI, the only accused person I examined at his house or office was K. Veeraswami (in 1970) whom I, on my own, decided not to summon to my office and offered to meet him at his residence.

He had already retired by then. This was on account of my wish to show respect for the post of Chief Justice of the Madras High Court which he had held and I was a mere Superintendent of Police. I did so after approval by Mr. V. R. Lakshminarayanan, then Joint Director, CBI, who readily agreed with my proposal.

In fact, the gentleman that he is, he appreciated my gesture. On January 22, 1991 I examined S. P. Hinduja and C. P. Hinduja in the Institute of Directors in the presence of their lawyer Mr. L. Leon Boshoff of the firm M/s. Clifford Chance, Solicitors, London. The statement recorded by me is on record with the CBI in the Bofors case and the contents need not be mentioned here. If my memory serves me right, the statement which was handwritten by me, was of 11 pages. Needless to say, I was not at all satisfied with their explanation.

The CBI has already prosecuted Qttavio Quattrocchi based on the documents received from Switzerland, though the CBI has not been able to interrogate him. In fact, Mr. S. K. Datta, then Director, CBI, and Mr. R. C. Sharma, then Joint Director, CBI, are guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in having allowed Qttavio Quattrocchi to flee the country on the night of July 29, 1993 when the CBI had received on July 22, 1993 or so a written confirmation from the Government of Switzerland regarding his criminal involvement in the Bofors case.

This despite my faxing two letters to the Director, CBI, on July 23 and July 29 that he would flee the country and that all checkposts should be alerted not to permit him to leave the country. I have also given irrefutable legal ground for examining him. In fact, even a semi-literate head constable of a rural police station in the interior of Bihar would have examined him as a matter of course. It is in spite of this that the two senior officers of the CBI did not examine him but instead allowed him to leave the country. I wonder if it was in fact suggested to him that he should flee. I understand that the letters faxed by me are on record in the CBI. You may like to decide what action should be taken in this regard. Limitation does not arise in such matters.

The CBI is not at the mercy of the Hindujas and the so-called dilemma of the CBI, if true, would be surprising and suspicious. All over the world in general and in India in particular, thousands of accused persons who may be absconding or are not appearing before the investigating agency to give clarifications are prosecuted. There are rulings of courts to the effect that even if the place of residence of an accused person is known but he is beyond the jurisdiction of the investigating agency and refuses to appear before the investigating agency, he would be deemed absconding to evade arrest. If you like, I can give the citations.

It appears quite clear that legally, if the documents received from Switzerland prove that the accounts operated by the Hindujas had received funds directly or indirectly remitted by Bofors after they received the first instalment of 20 per cent of the contract value from the Government of India, they would definitely be as guilty as Qttavio Quattrocchi. If they are not willing to appear before the CBI in India, it is their nemesis in the event of their being innocent. If the CBI's own appreciation and assessment of the facts and evidence shows that they are guilty, them their appearance or non-appearance before the CBI is irrelevant and they can be prosecuted as absconding accused persons as the CBI itself has done so in this very case in respect of Qttavio Quattrocchi. There are thousands of criminal cases in which such procedure has been followed. The most recent example of such a case is the prosecution launched by the CBI in respect of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, in which the CBI filed the chargesheet showing Prabhakaran as absconder.

It is also very pertinent that weeks before the final tranche of documents was to be received by the CBI after the Hindujas lost in all the court cases and appeals in Switzerland, they suddenly took British citizenship after having been NRIs for over three decades. It is more difficult to get a citizen extracted from his own country to another country where he might have been prosecuted.

All that I have written above is subject to the condition that in the event of the Hindujas appearing before the concerned CBI officers at Delhi and successfully explaining their innocence, then they need not be proceeded against.

I presume that the CBI would have issued a red alert in this regard through the Interpol.