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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 11:53 GMT
Bofors man wins extradition case
Bofors gun
The guns were procured for India's army in the 1980s
A High Court judge in Malaysia has ruled that an Italian man wanted in India in connection with the Bofors arms scandal cannot be extradited.

I had never doubted the Malaysian judiciary

Ottavio Quattrocchi
The judge said papers submitted against the man, Ottavio Quattrocchi, did not provide enough information for extradition to be granted.

A spokesman for India's Central Bureau of Investigation said it would appeal against the decision.

Correspondents say the ruling is a major setback for the Indian authorities, who have yet to jail anyone in the case despite years of investigation.

Mr Quattrocchi, 64, had already won his case 10 days ago in a lower court, but the Malaysian Government had launched an appeal.

'Innocent'

He was arrested two years ago, and India accused him of corruption and conspiracy in the Bofors case.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir refused to interfere with court decision
He had been freed on bail pending the hearings.

"I had never doubted the Malaysian judiciary. I have done nothing wrong. I have nothing to fear," he said, after Friday's ruling.

On Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had declined to get involved in the case, saying that any decision had to be taken by the courts.

He was responding to a report that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had written to him to seek support for the businessman, who has been living in Malaysia for the past decade.

India and Malaysia have no extradition treaty.

Vendetta claim

The scandal dates back to the mid-1980s when the Indian Government finalised a $1.3bn deal with the Swedish arms company, Bofors, for the supply of 400 field guns.

India says that Mr Quattrocchi was the intermediary in the deal, and received $7m in bribes and other illegal payments.

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

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 denied all wrongdoing and said that he had been the victim of a political vendetta in India, because of his links to the Gandhi family.

Last week, the Indian Supreme Court postponed until March the trial of three of the billionaire Hinduja brothers - Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand - who are also accused in the case. They deny all charges.

See also:

02 Dec 02 | South Asia
15 Nov 02 | South Asia
14 Nov 02 | South Asia
24 Oct 01 | South Asia
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