Date: 1/16/2006


Nation taken for a ride /// by Navin Upadhyay/ New Delhi//// CBI aids Govt in cover-up --- Ottavio Quattrocchi has once again taken for a ride the Indian law enforcement agencies, judiciary, media, political system, governance - and the entire nation. //// The Italian businessman who figures as a middleman in the Bofors payoff scandal, has reportedly mopped up the entire bribery amount of more than four million dollars deposited in his two London bank accounts, which were defrozen following UPA Government's clean chit to him before the British prosecution. As Mr Q's well-wishers and old links in the Congress and Government blinked while the controversy raged, the man on Tuesday cleared his accounts, pre-empting Supreme Court's intervention in the matter, which was followed by a major volte-face by the CBI and the Prime Minister finally breaking his silence. //// Directing that steps should be taken to maintain status quo on Quattrocchi's accounts, frozen in July 2003 on the Indian Government's request, a Bench comprising Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice CK Thakker and Justice RV Raveendran said authorities should rise to see that amounts should not be withdrawn if already defrozen. //// In a virtual rebuff to the Government, the court said "if they (Centre and CBI) are of the view that the pending cases be dropped against Quattrocchi, obviously they should have gone to the criminal court (where the trial is pending)." //// "Till further order we direct the Centre and CBI to take necessary steps for maintenance of status quo on accounts in question so that the defreezing of accounts does not take place," the court said. As an outraged nation watched the way tax-payers money was allowed to be siphoned off, the CBI stepped in to provide some much-needed cover for the Government. In a ////Bombshell 'disclosure', the CBI on Monday claimed its Additional Solicitor General B Datta went to London in connection with the Bofors case at its directive and neither the Law Ministry nor the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had any role to play. "Neither the DoPT //// nor the Law Ministry has any role to play in sending the Additional Solicitor General to London," CBI Joint Director AK Majumdar told reporters here. //// "This is purely a CBI decision and Crown Prosecution of London only communicates with CBI," he said. It is anybody's guess that the CBI was once again manipulated and coerced to own up the sins of its masters. Earlier the same CBI was quoted as saying that the Law Ministry sent Mr Datta to Britain on the defreeze issue. The flip-flop was a clear attempt to give a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who heads the DoPT, which controls the CBI. A few hours later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh read out the same script. The identical nature of the two statements made it obvious that a massive cover-up exercise has been undertaken in a bid to establish that the Government as such had no role in giving a clean chit to Mr Q - something few will willing to buy knowing his alleged past association with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Breaking his weeklong silence on the entire drama, the Prime Minister said his Government had no role in defreezing the accounts. Ignoring the facts that the CBI came under the domain of the PMO, Mr Manmohan Singh said, "Neither the freezing was done under Government order nor has the unfreezing (of Quattrocchi's accounts) been done under Government's order". //// "These matters are exclusively under functional jurisdiction of CBI in which the Government does not interfere," Mr Singh said addressing a Press conference in Guwahati. "All steps in this matter are in accordance with the established standard procedure. The autonomy of the CBI will be preserved under this Government at all costs," he asserted. //// "Action relating to both freezing and unfreezing of these accounts have been taken at the level of the CBI in consultation with law officials as per established procedures," he said. But after the way the UPA Government forced CBI's hand in Satish Sharma and Mayawati's cases, the Prime Minister's lofty sermon on the agency's "free working" would only provoke laughter. //// The Prime Minister did not answer many questions that point to the complicity and culpability of his Government in the whole episode. Neither did he explain how the decision to give a clean chit to Mr Q was legal even though criminal cases were pending against him in Indian courts. //// Mr Singh spoke after the apex court's intervention in the matter, and one would have expected him to take note of the apex court's directive to the Government to ensure that accounts were not defrozen and Mr Q not allowed to withdraw his money. Implicit in the directive was the loud message that prima facie, the court had taken serious view of the matter and was going to deliberate on its legality in the coming days. But the Prime Minister obviously did not get the message. //// So, he did not speak a word on what action he was going to initiate against Law Minister HR Bhardwaj who had gone on record associating himself with the decision to defreeze the accounts. //// The Prime Minister was also silent on what steps he would take against MoS Suresh Pachauri who heads the DoPT, which had a direct role in clearing Datta's tour to the UK, and which had reportedly coordinated with the Law Ministry in drafting the response of the Government before the Crown Prosecution Service in London. //// He also had no word to explain the inaction of his Government to stop the account from being defreezed even though a week has lapsed since the story first surfaced and created a political storm in the country. But if the Prime Minister decided to brush off the burning questions, the apex court was not willing to provide him any comfort. It directed Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subaramanian to clarify the Government's stand on various issues, particularly relating to the question of defreezing Quattrocchi's bank accounts and on prosecuting the Italian in the Bofors case. //// "We would like to know on the defreezing of Quattrocchi's bank account, if any steps have been taken by the Union of India and CBI," the Bench asked the ASG. //// The Bench made it clear to the ASG that it was also seeking an answer whether the Centre and CBI wanted Quattrocchi's account to be defrozen. "If this was so, at whose instance, the defreezing of his account was being taken," it asked. //// The directions and observations came after the Bench severely pulled up advocate Ajay Agarwal, who has challenged the alleged move of the Government before the Crown Prosecution Service, London, for defreezing of Quattrocchi's bank accounts. ///// At the outset, the Bench reminded him that his petition was based on media reports and why he has "unnecessarily" named Law Minister HR Bhardwaj and Additional Solicitor General B Dutta as the respondents.///// "It is for the Government to come and satisfy the court," the Bench observed and warned him that he was "trying to politicise the issue by making Law Minister and ASG as unnecessary respondents," the Bench said. The court also took strong exception to the conduct of Agarwal on the whole development before it particularly castigated him for not serving in advance the copy of the petition and application to the Centre and other respondents. "We deprecate this practise of playing to the gallery," the Bench observed, referring to the two letters Agarwal wrote relating to the matter, which he gave to the office of Attorney General and Solicitor General at 11.40am on Monday, just before the hearing began. //// PTI/ London: Britain's Crown Prosecution said on Monday that banks in the country were not bound by the Indian Supreme Court's direction to the Indian Government and CBI to ensure that Quattrocchi is not able to withdraw money from his two accounts in a bank here. Asked whether the Italian businessman would have withdrawn the money already, CPS spokeswoman Annabelle McMillan said, "we have no way of knowing it. Only the banks can reveal that." //// story1%2Etxt&counter_img=1//// =......................000000000