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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 05:30 GMT
India wants suspect extradited
Ottavio Quattrocchi
Ottavio Quattrocchi is on Interpol's wanted list
India has made a formal request to Argentina for the extradition of an Italian businessman named in a major bribery case.

Ottavio Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on 6 February. A court released him on bail last week, but barred him from leaving the country.

He is accused in the Bofors corruption case, one of the highest-profile and longest-running in India.

Authorities say Mr Quattrocchi took $7m in bribes in the deal, which he denies.

The businessman says he is the victim of a political vendetta in India.

'No proof'

A team of federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrived in Argentinian capital Buenos Aires on Thursday and filed paperwork needed for the extradition with the foreign ministry.

"We have submitted our documentation. It is now for the Argentinian authorities to take the case," CBI director of prosecution, SK Sharma, told reporters outside the foreign ministry.

But Mr Quattrocchi's lawyer, Alejandro Freeland, said, "There is not a single proof (against my client). We cannot understand how this order of arrest is alive."

Argentinian officials declined to comment.

India has no extradition treaty with Argentina.

Earlier in the week, India's Supreme Court gave the federal government and its top investigative agency, the CBI, a week to explain why it was not informed of Mr Quattrocchi's arrest.

Politically sensitive

Mr Quattrocchi was arrested almost a month ago, but news of his arrest emerged only last week.

The issue is extremely politically sensitive as Mr Quattrocchi was known to be a friend of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born chief of India's governing Congress Party.

The issue has also rocked the ongoing Parliament session this week with opposition MPs calling for Mr Quattrocchi's immediate extradition.

Swedish firm AB Bofors was alleged to have paid $1.3bn in bribes over the sale of 400 Howitzers to India in 1986.

Bofors howitzers in action in Kashmir
Illegal commissions were allegedly paid on the Bofors guns

The Indian authorities say Mr Quattrocchi was the intermediary in the deal, and received $7m in bribes and other illegal payments.

For much of the last decade, they have been trying to get Mr Quattrocchi extradited to India.

Interpol has issued a notice against him.

Mr Quattrocchi says he is a victim of a political vendetta because of his links to the Gandhi family.

The Bofors case led to the election defeat of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, two years before he was assassinated.

In 2004, Mr Gandhi was posthumously cleared of any wrongdoing in the deal, which was signed when he was in office.

In May 2005, three of the billionaire Hinduja brothers were acquitted in the case.

The Delhi High Court threw out all charges against Britons Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja and Swiss citizen Prakash Hinduja for lack of evidence.

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31 May 05 |  South Asia
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04 Feb 04 |  South Asia

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