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Q, curiouser

Q, curiouser

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 1, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/q-curiouser/523573/

Introduction: For proper political closure, the Quattocchi case needs and open airing

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego" was a popular computer game in the '80s, starring a trench-coated international fugitive, and meant to teach children geography as she popped up in various parts of the world. For long, after he was accused of facilitating the Bofors bribery, Ottavio Quattrocchi was a name like that - surfacing every now and then as the long arm of Indian justice reached out for him now in Malaysia, now in Argentina. Now, that attempt seems to have been decisively abandoned, as the UPA government dropped the case, citing paucity of evidence and declaring further pursuit a "waste of time".

The opposition is outraged, but the Congress-led government shrugs its shoulders, saying it was about time the "phantom of Bofors" was exorcised and the character assassination ended. To outsiders, Bofors is the definitive symbol of corruption and the bad old days of one party, drunk on power. And ever since the UPA came back to power, it has persisted in the rolling over of institutional propriety. Law ministries, attorney generals and the CBI have all been complicit in this gradual loosening of the noose around Quattrocchi's neck - unfreezing his London bank account (defying instructions from the Supreme Court, and later lamely admitting that over $4 million had already been withdrawn), withdrawing the Red Corner notice (issued to Interpol earlier by Indian law enforcement agencies, to enable his extradition). His name was cut out from the Interpol list just before UPA-I left office.

The furtiveness is what makes it so awful. Given that Quattrocchi is an enormously contentious figure, and that this one case is so bound up with the personal probity of the Congress leadership, it would have been far more fitting and honest to give the matter open airing. The involvement of law enforcement agencies in a seemingly stealthy way only casts the Quattrocchi case in a more lurid light. The sad fact is that even if Ottavio Quattrocchi was pure as the driven snow, and none of the charges stuck, the way this case is being handled, there is no possibility of political closure.

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