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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 15:35 GMT
Hindujas win trial delay
Bofors gun
The guns were procured for the army in the 1980s
The criminal trial of the billionaire Hinduja brothers in Delhi in connection with a 1986 arms deal has been postponed until next March.

The Bofors affair
March 1986: Indian Government and Bofors sign arms contract
April 1987: Allegations of bribery surface
October 1999: First charges filed
October 2000: Hindujas charged
June 2002: Charges dropped
November 2002: High Court gives go-ahead for trial
India's Supreme Court heard an application from Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand Hinduja to have their trial quashed, and has given the Indian prosecuting authorities until March to come up with a response.

Meanwhile, Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi also won a court battle on Monday against India's attempts to extradite him from Malaysia in connection with the case.

Along with the Hinduja brothers, Mr Quattrocchi was one of six people linked to bribery and corruption charges in connection with a $1.3 billion arms deal in 1986 with the Swedish firm Bofors.

Indian offiicials are appealing against the decision not to extradite Mr Quattrocchi, and say they have told Interpol to look out for him as he is to have his passport returned.

Allegations

Monday's developments are the latest in a scandal which has dogged India's political scene for 16 years.

In June the High Court in Delhi threw out the charges against the Hindujas on a legal technicality.

Rajiv Gandhi
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi: Named in bribery case
But two weeks ago, a judge said there was enough evidence for the brothers to face trial and set 4 December as the date for court proceedings to start.

The Supreme Court decision delays the trial pending a full hearing of a Central Bureau of Investigation appeal in the case.

Correspondents say Monday's rulings are a double setback for the authorities.

Another key defendent in the case, Bofors agent Win Chadha, died of a heart attack a year ago.

'Bribes'

The scandal dates back to the mid-1980s when the Indian Government finalised a deal with the Swedish arms company Bofors for the supply of 400 field guns.

Allegations circulated in the media soon after that bribes had been paid, and Indian officials launched an investigation.

Prosecutors argue that about $8m was paid to the Hinduja brothers by Bofors at the time of the deal - the Hindujas strongly deny any wrongdoing.

The current charges came after a long investigation by Indian police which also implicated a number of top politicians, including the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Mr Quattrocchi has claimed that the extradition attempt against him was politically motivated.

He was friends with Rajiv Gandhi and his widow and current leader of India's opposition Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.

See also:

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