Argentine court order exposes India lapses in Quattrocchi case


New Delhi : Fugitive Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, wanted by New Delhi to stand trial here for his alleged role in the Bofors kickbacks scandal, could not be extradited last year as India failed to submit necessary documents before an Argentine court.

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An unofficial English translation of the El Dorado court order the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) submitted to the Supreme Court Tuesday said: “The government of the Republic of India has failed to submit a court resolution ordering the issuance of the arrest order, dated May 25, 1997, which is the origin and reason of the commencement of these extradition proceeding.”

It further noted, “The government of India has attached a copy of the arrest order and of the court resolution dated Feb 24, 2007, which provides no pertinent grounds for the arrest.”

The 69-year-old businessman, arrested by the Argentinean authorities on Feb 6 last year at the Iguazu International Airport on the basis of a Red Corner notice issued by Interpol, was released on bail Feb 23.

The Argentine court finally set him free and allowed him to go back to Italy June 8, 2007.

Submitting the English version of the El Dorado court’s order to a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian said the CBI had failed to procure from the El Dorado court an official English translation of the order, originally in Spanish.

It then got the court order translated into English through its own resources and was submitting it to the apex court, counsel said.

“Despite our best effort to secure the translated copy of the order from the Argentine court, we have failed,” Subramanian told the bench.

Turning down India’s plea to extradite Quattrocchi to New Delhi, the El Dorado court ruled: “Since the documentation submitted by India does not meet the requirements of its (Argentine) law, the extradition order against Quattrocchi cannot be sustained.”

The Argentinean court added, “It must be asserted that the document submitted (by India) does not represent the formal requirement stated by law, since the court decision dated May 25, 1997 regarding the crime giving rise to the arrest (of Quattrocchi) has not been submitted.

“The documents furnished on Feb 24, 2007 do not provide the pertinent legal grounds which are essential requirements to proceed with the extradition order,” the copy of the order said.

The Supreme Court bench was hearing an application filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal, seeking a direction to the government and the CBI to submit to the apex court all the documents related to the efforts to extradite Quattrocchi from Argentina to India.

The lawyer approached the court after the Indian authorities allegedly withdrew their appeal from the Argentinean Supreme Court against the June 8 order of the lower court.

Agrawal earlier moved the apex court against the de-freezing of Quattrocchi’s bank account in London.

At an earlier hearing, the government brushed aside Agrawal’s allegation that it was covertly assisting the Italian businessman. He alleged that the opinion of the CBI director and the government’s law officers relating to the case was passed on to Quattrocchi’s counsel in Argentina.

The additional solicitor general asserted that all possible steps were taken in the matter though there was no extradition treaty between India and Argentina.

Agrawal, however, alleged that the government “deliberately” failed in extraditing Quattrocchi from Argentina.

The advocate Tuesday sought disclosure of confidential material, including legal opinions of the CBI and the law ministry, which allegedly facilitated the rejection of India’s extradition request.

He claimed that Indian authorities concealed from the El Dorado Court that the Supreme Court here had already admitted a petition challenging a Delhi High Court verdict quashing charges against the Hinduja brothers, accused in the case related to the defence purchase scandal of the 1980s.

Agrawal earlier had moved the apex court challenging the May 31, 2005 ruling of the high court after CBI failed to approach the apex court within the mandatory 90-day period.