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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
India seeks UK help over Bofors
Ottavio Quattrocchi
Mr Quattrocchi denies any wrongdoing
The Indian authorities have asked the UK Government to freeze the funds of an Italian businessman allegedly involved in a multi-million dollar gun deal case.

Delhi has sent a formal request to freeze more than $4m lying in a UK bank, which was allegedly paid by a Swedish firm to the businessman - Ottavio Quattrocchi.

He is accused of being one of the recipients of alleged bribes made by the Swedish artillery manufacturer AB Bofors in the mid-1980's, to win a contract to supply the Indian army with howitzer guns.

Spokesman G Mohanty of India's main investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), told the BBC it had requested the UK authorities to investigate how this money had reached Mr Quattrocchi's bank account in London.

"We had already informed the Interpol about this but the British government had asked for an official letter before it could take any action," said Mr Mohanty.

Political fallout

The investigating authorities say Mr Quattrocchi used his close association with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to clinch a deal to supply 410 Howitzer guns to the Indian army.

Bofors howitzers in action in Kashmir
The Bofors guns triggered a political scandal

The CBI says Sweden's National Audit Bureau reported several years ago that Bofors had paid sums of money to its agents in India.

The Indian Ministry of Defence says the contract between the Indian Government and Bofors laid down that there would be no intermediary in that particular deal.

The CBI has also levelled charges against the British-based billionaire Hinduja brothers in the same case.

That case is proceeding through the Indian legal system.

The Bofors issue has dogged India's political scene for over a decade and a half.

The scandal became the main issue in India's general elections in 1989, and led to the defeat of the Prime Minister at the time, Rajiv Gandhi.

'Vendetta victim'

The scandal dates back to the mid-1980s when the Indian Government finalised a $1.3bn deal with Bofors to supply 400 artillery howitzers.

Indian authorities say Mr Quattrocchi was an intermediary in the case, and received $7m in illegal payments.

He was arrested by Malaysian police several years ago after Interpol requested his detention, but was later released on bail although his passport was impounded.

Last December, a Malaysian court rejected an Indian request for Mr Quattrocchi's extradition.

He was friends with Rajiv Gandhi and his widow Sonia Gandhi, who is at present the leader of the opposition Congress party.

The current accusations followed long investigations by the Indian police implicating several top politicians, including Rajiv Gandhi.

Mr Quattrocchi has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of political vendetta because of his links to the Gandhi family.


SEE ALSO:
Bofors man wins extradition case
13 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Hindujas win trial delay
02 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Hindujas charged in arms bribery case
15 Nov 02  |  South Asia
Q&A: Who are the Hindujas?
14 Nov 02  |  South Asia
Bofors accused dies in India
24 Oct 01  |  South Asia


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