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UPA 'save Q' mission began with its'04 win

UPA 'save Q' mission began with its'04 win

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 30, 2009

Allowing Italian fugitive Ottavio Quattrocchi to be free of an Interpol red corner notice (RCN) is the final chapter of the CBI's long and arduous 'save Quattrocchi mission', which began when the UPA came to power in 2004.

Before killing the RCN, the agency had allowed the arrest warrant against Quattrocchi to expire twice (2004 and 2005). Then, it had let him take his money, allegedly the kickback amount, back from his London accounts in 2006 and subsequently it "goofed" up during his extradition trial in Argentina in 2007, helping him escape to Italy.

Though Quattrocchi used to be a free man in Italy despite the RCN, putting him off the Interpol list will allow him to travel to any country except India where he is still an accused in the Bofors case. How the CBI's move allowed him to walk free from Argentina was explained by none other than the El Dorado court in June, 2007. The court, in its "detailed order" rejecting Quattrocchi's extradition, indicated that India lost its case because it did not get "fresh arrest warrant" issued against him immediately after Delhi HC's February 2004 and May 2005 judgments which quashed proceedings against public servants and certain other accused.

The El Dorado court questioned the very basis of Quattrocchi's detention under the RCN in Argentina which, the judge felt, had been in force without any valid arrest warrant. It accepted the argument that the RCN was issued by Interpol on the basis of a 1997 non-bailable warrant which, in fact, was not valid in the wake of Delhi HC's 2004 and 2005 orders.

The Argentine lower court's remarks had raised a big question mark over the CBI's seriousness to pursue the well-connected Italian. It appears that had the agency been serious in its quest his arrest, it would have got fresh arrest warrant against him as soon as getting the May 2005 Delhi HC order. Though the NDA was in power in February 2004, the CBI got the court's order only later when the country was in the poll-mode. The UPA came to power in May and the matter remained buried till February 2007 when the agency got fresh warrant against Quattrocchi realizing its prerequisite for the then RCN to remain valid. It lost a crucial 17 days in the process, allowing the fugitive to get his freedom from the court.

Though the mater had later come up before the Argentine SC, the fugitive got his passport back and was allowed to leave Argentina as the public prosecutor, who was supposed to take up the case on CBI's behalf, did not pursue the matter due to Delhi's dilly-dallying. The role of Indian Embassy in Buenos Aires still remains a suspect in that case. India also did another favour to Quattrocchi. It had sent its additional solicitor general to London where he briefed the authorities about the CBI's inability to link the fugitive money in London with the Bofors kickbacks, a move which led to defreezing of the accounts.

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