Rajya Sabha adjourned over Bofors

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 26, 2012 06:42 hrs

New Delhi, Apr 26 (IBNS) The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for 15 minutes on Thursday after opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) stalled proceedings of the House over fresh revelations made in the Bofors scandal.

Minutes after the House assembled for the day, BJP and AIADMK members started alleging former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had protected Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the main accused in the Bofors payoff case.

Chairman Hamid Ansari said: "Please allow Question Hour to proceed.The Question Hour cannot be suspended."

However, the opposition members continued displaying newspapers carrying former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom interview.

"No display of newspapers please," Ansari said before adjourning the Upper House of the Parliament for 15 minutes.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

In a recent interview to thehoot.org, former Swedish Police chief Sten Lindstrom said he leaked the papers to journalist Chitra Subramanian who had broken the story.

"I knew what I was doing when I leaked the documents to you. I could not count on my government or Bofors or the government of India to get to the bottom of this," Sten told thehoot.org.

"I believe I did the best I could. I watched you work for almost one year before I took my decision to leak the Bofors-India documents to you. You were one of many journalists from India and Sweden as well as many politicians from India who visited me during this period.

He said the India-angle in Bofors came up by ´accident´.

"It was an accident. We were conducting several search and seize operations in the premises of Bofors and their executives. I have some experience in this area, so I asked my team to take everything they could find. In the pile were one set of documents to Swiss banks with instructions that the name of the recipient should be blocked out.

"An accountant doing his job asked why anonymity was necessary since the payments were legal. Bofors was unable to explain and then we found more and more documents leading to India," said Sten.

On former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi being named in the scandal, Sten said: "There was no evidence that he had received any bribe. But he watched the massive cover-up in India and Sweden and did nothing."

"Many Indian institutions were tarred, innocent people were punished while the guilty got away. The evidence against Ottavio Quattrrocchi was conclusive.

"Through a front company called A.E. Services, bribes paid by Bofors landed in Quattrocchi's account which he subsequently cleaned out because India said there was no evidence linking him to the Bofors deal. Nobody in Sweden or Switzerland was allowed to interrogate him," he said.

The ghosts of Bofors came to haunt the ruling Congress like a blast from the past as an Income Tax Tribunal claimed that Quattrochi was paid kickbacks by the Indian Government in the Rs 1500 crore defence deal.

The tribunal said Ottavio Quattrocchi and late Win Chadha were paid 242.62 million Swedish kroners in kickbacks from M/s AB Bofors to clinch the deal to supply 155 mm field howitzer guns to India.

An agent of Swedish arms manufacturer A B Bofors, late Chadha was charged by the CBI in 1999 along with former defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ottavio Quattrocchi, former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo and the company itself.

Ottavio Quattrocchi was hounded for his role as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors deal but later it was said that there was no evidence against him.

The tribunal said the kickbacks were paid in the 1987 deal (during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister) in violation of rules as middlemen are illegal in defence deals in India.

India had to pay about Rs.s 160 crore more for the Bofors guns, it said.

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