Saturday, January 8, 2011
Call Sonia to the dock
[ Bofors remains the world's biggest unresolved mystery because we Indians shy away from calling a spade a spade. The person who holds the key is Sonia Gandhi, who is protected by layers of silent conspirators ]
Why does the Bofors corruption scandal keep resurfacing in our national attention? Because it is an unresolved issue involving India's defence preparedness and the corrupt subversion of national interest by foreigners in favoring the purchase of 400 long-range 155 mm guns produced by a Swedish company because of bribes.
Indians are still patriotic by and large, and are loathe to tolerating any compromise with national security. That is why in every war since 1947 from Kashmir to Kargil in 1999, Indians have risen as one, much to the surprise of our enemies.
Therefore, the Bofors scam will never fade away till the guilty are brought to book. The people instinctively know that it represents corruption in very high places. The key figure in this scam is the Italian family friend, and fixer, of the then young Prime Minister who was introduced to the nation as "Mr Clean". But the hapless inexperienced PM was manipulated by his Italian wife to commit this unforgivable crime against the nation.
By the time he woke up to it he was assassinated under mysterious circumstances in 1991 by the terrorist and now defunct LTTE. So too was the then Swedish Prime Minister, and his close associate. But the key figure behind the scenes in effecting the deal in 1986 is in power today, and was influential with those in power for most of the period since 1991.
The Italian fixer and small arms supplier to the LTTE, Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was nailed as the catalyst in the deal by the CBI, in return for a hefty commission, had escaped from India in 1993, then from Malaysia in 2002 via a rigged court judgment obtained by collusion, and from Argentina by the same CBI fudging the records — all achieved under three different and consenting Prime Ministers.
But like the law of Karma, the scam keeps re-surfacing from one window or another. The latest is the ITAT quasi-judicial order, which under the law cannot be appealed against in the High Court unless it can be proved that a "substantial" law has been violated by the order. There is no such violation. As I see it, the ITAT order therefore holding the Italian fixer guilty and the government of the day as of liars, is final and has to be executed by the government. That means also re-opening the CBI case against the Bofors scam.
This scam is stuck in Sonia Gandhi's political throat — it was "Q" who got a big slice, and so too the Jamshed Dadachandji-managed "Gandhi Trust" of the family referred to by Martin Ardbo in his diaries (in which Sonia is residual legatee], and the then brother-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, Walter Vinci, who was married to Anushka. He was grafted by Sonia on Rajiv Gandhi's delegation to Sweden on March 26, 1986. This was to ensure that as PM, Rajiv signed the deal — to ensure the March 31, 1986 deadline set by Bofors Co., was met by "Q" to earn his dirty commission via AE Services. Since the deal was consummated, Vinci has bolted with his loot, abandoning Anushka.
As Union Law & Justice Minister 1990-91, the files sent to me by Prime Minister Chandrashekhar made it obvious that Rajiv was just a facilitator, but nevertheless an unforgivable accessory in the Bofors scam. The real operator however was Sonia, alias Antonia Edvige.
The principal investigator of the felony in Sweden, the Police Commissioner, in fact later wrote to Defence Minister George Fernandes in the NDA government that it is Sonia, who must be interrogated to get at the truth, but that he was constantly denied access to her by successive Indian governments. George too soon after he called for the files from his Ministry was told: "Is par haath math lagao" (don't touch the Bofor files). So he dropped the matter.
In a chance(?) meeting in Brussels in late 1990 as Union Commerce Minister, Dr Igor Linderoth, the new Bofors chairman and successor to Martin Ardbo introduced himself to me as a student of the Harvard Business School, and said he remembered me from then. I was told by him that if the Indian government which had already invested `550 crore in joint production of the Bofors gun, went ahead with it, he would give us the list of payments made with bank transfer details, which list was safely kept in a locker in Sweden.
When I brought this to the attention of Chandrashekhar, he arranged to bring Linderoth to Delhi incognito and a deal was discussed. It required the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) to revoke the blacklisting of Bofors Company. But before we could get the papers ready for that, Rajiv and Chandrashekhar got into a scrap over the Haryana Police surveillance issue. The second Janata government fell on March 12, 1991.
I also learnt while in Brussels that a fight in early 1986 had erupted between Sonia and the Bofors Company, which was delaying finalisation of the deal and making "Q" nervous. It was over her insistence on getting the 20 per cent commission as a lump sum and up front. The Bofors company said they would give the commissions in installments as the government purchased the installments (of 20 guns per month).
The matter was resolved by the Hindujas, whose powerful antenna had picked up the details of the fight. They paid her the lump sum and agreed to collect the installments from the Bofors Company, and thus the deal was clinched. Hindujas are technically right when they said in court later that the Bofors payments to them did not constitute a bribe. It was in effect a repayment of a "loan" in installments. Thus began a close friendship of the Hindujas with Rajiv, who earlier in 1985 had cancelled a dinner with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the UK because the invitees list included the Hindujas. That friendship continues today with the residual legatee Sonia as well, and naturally it better!
What is to be done now? ITAT bench of Tolani and Sharma have done for India on corruption what earlier Justices Jagmohan Lal Sinha and HR Khanna did for the nation's democracy. I am of the view that in the present circumstances we must work with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has a chance to redeem himself to get to the bottom of the scandal. We must give him a chance. In any case, if he does not come through, we can later always prosecute him as an accessory after the fact.
I suggest therefore the following steps be taken:
Step. No 1: An Informal Action Committee (IAC) of persons having no past taint on corruption or sleaze or having links to Sonia be constituted to prepare a criminal complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with Sonia Gandhi as the first accused and Quattrocchi as second accused. Other accused can be added later.
Step No. 2: Before it is filed in a Special CBI Court for taking cognizance under the Act we need to send the complaint to the PM for grant of sanction.
Step No. 3: If the Lok Pal Bill is enacted in the coming session of Parliament then this complaint can be filed in that institution as well.
Step No. 4: The IAC can take up the money trail question with the Governments of India, Switzerland, and other safe haven nations.
-- The writer is president, Janata Party