The investigation into the Bofors scandal was subverted by successive Congress or Congress-supported governments, and not by the NDA governments, of which the BJP was the principal constituent, BJP senior leader Arun Jaitely has said.
In inteviews to CNN-IBN’s Rajdeep Sardesai and Karan Thapar, Jaitley reiterated that the payoffs in the Bofors deal to Ottavio Quattrocchi were “political” in nature.
“Kickbacks were paid to someone extremely close to the then powers that be,” Jaiteley told Sardesai. “Those kickbacks did influence the contract, there was a cover-up … that much is established from a series of factors. It’s also equally true that the judicial and investigative process during Congress governments had been subverted to give a clean chit of innocence to those who were actually involved.”
Asked whether his claim (made during the late 1980s) that Rajiv Gandhi had received Bofors kickbacks stood demolished in the wake of the latest revelations by the Swedish whistleblower that no money was paid to Rajiv Gandhi, Jaitley said: “The (whistleblower’s) interview says that there is no evidence of money going directly to the former prime minister. The monies went to a company called AE Services.
This company is controlled by Ottavio Quattrocchi. Quattrocchi was very close to the prime minister…When the monies landed up in Geneva and the enquiry of AE Services was taking place it was concluded that it was a political payment.””
Jaitley further said: “Read all these sentences which I am quoting to you verbatim. The tenor is not to declare someone innocent or somebody guilty, the tenor of it is that monies went into not Mr Gandhi’s account – there was no such account – the monies went into Mr Quattrocchi’s account who was very close to prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and this was a political payment.”
Pressed again to clarify if his statement during the 1989 election campaign – that he had the Bofors account number in which Rajiv Gandhi had been paid monies – was simply a political witch-hunt, Jaitley reiterated the whistleblower’s point that it was a “political payment” and the mention of a meeting in Geneva between AE Services officials and a Gandhi Trustee lawyer.
“If you can’t conclude a direct meaning and interpretation of this, I can’t help it. To me, this is as clear as daylight that monies went into the account of Mr Quattrocchi who was close to somebody and these were political payments,” Jaitley said.
Asked why , if he was so convinced of Quattrocchi’s role, why the non-Congress governments had not gone after him, Jaitley noted, first, that the Rajiv Gandhi government had between 1986 and 1990 done everything in its power to cover up the scandal. During the short tenure of the VP Singh government, an FIR was registered, the accounts into which payments were made were frozen, and letter rogatory sent to Switzerland.
But again, through the 1990s, under Congress or Congress supported United Front government thereafter, no progress was made in the case, Jaitely recalled.
Again, under AB Vajpayee’s government from 1998, the investigations were concluded, and in 1999 a chargesheet was filed, and charges framed. The trial too began, but again,in 2004, when the Congress returned to power, the Delhi High Court erroneously quashed the case and the Congress government decided not to appeal against it.
Therefore, the blame should be put on Congress or Congress-supported governments, he added. “Whenever there was an Opposition government for short periods in between, this case did proceed.”
On Karan Thapar’s show, Jaitley denied that the NDA government had shielded Sonia Gandhi from interrogation, as Subramanian Swamy had alleged in an interview to Firstpost.
Asked why the NDA government had not authorised the “obvious step” of questioning Sonia Gandhi, Jaitley said “the decision whom to question is not taken by the prime minister or the law ministry. It is taken by the CBI” – on the basis of evidence it had with it.”