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21 Oct 2017

Bofors: Did Rajiv Gandhi sabotage investigation? CBI wants to re-probe

If the CBI's wish is granted, the probe into the Bofors scandal, which has haunted Congress since three decades, might be reopened soon.

The agency has sought permission to file a special leave petition in the SC against the discharge of the accused.

This comes even as Michael Hershman, CEO of American detective firm Fairfax, alleged the Rajiv Gandhi government sabotaged his investigations.

In context

Will the probe into Bofors be reopened?
The case haunting Congress for over three decades


The case haunting Congress for over three decades

On 24 Mar'86, Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors entered a Rs. 1,437-crore deal with India for supplying 410 155mm Howitzer field guns to Indian Army.

Reports later surfaced about Bofors bribing Indian and Swedish politicians, including the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, to seal the deal.

The scandal contributed to the Gandhi government's downfall and subsequent loss in 1989 General Elections.


'Can't waste taxpayers' money': Case closed in 2011

Throughout the years, the CBI registered cases against then Bofors President Martin Ardbo; middleman Win Chadda; Defense Secretary SK Bhatnagar; Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, and more.

In 2011, a special CBI court allowed CBI to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi.

Then a Delhi court closed the Bofors case ruling Indian taxpayers' money can't be spent on cases that wouldn't "do any good to them."

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Fresh allegations against Rajiv Gandhi by American detective

Recently, Hershman, who was tasked with probing violations of currency control laws in 1987, said he was amazed a probe was never conducted.

"This suggests there are people who are still afraid (of) the truth coming out."

He also questioned Rajiv Gandhi's intentions. "…Wouldn't the right thing to do was to launch an investigation?"

"Corruption has become part of Indian culture," he noted.

Always wanted to proceed but UPA didn't allow, CBI claims

The CBI has maintained that though it wished to proceed with the probe, the UPA government never allowed it. Legal experts say it will have a hard time explaining the 12-year lapse. But it said it will examine the "facts and circumstances" mentioned by Hershman.


What might this mean for the Congress?

If its petition is approved, CBI will record the statements of initial investigators, many of whom were reportedly ordered to back off.

CBI will also question then ED chief Bhure Lal and his team who were given similar orders.

This might dent all chances of a political recovery for the Congress, India's main opposition, who has lost much ground since BJP's 2014 victory.

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