Bofors: Decision on Quattrocchi''s fate deferred till March 4

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New Delhi, Feb 21 (PTI) A Delhi court today deferredtill March 4 pronouncement of its judgement on the CBI''s pleato drop the case against Italian businessman OttavioQuattrocchi in the two-decade-old Bofors payoff case.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav posted forMarch 4 his order on the CBI''s plea seeking withdrawal of thecase against 70-year-old Quattrocchi, who has never appearedbefore any court in India to face trial.

The CBI had, in October 2009, sought permission of thecourt to withdraw the case against Quattrocchi, saying hiscontinued prosecution was "unjustified" in the light ofvarious factors including the agency''s failed attempts to gethim extradited -- first from Malaysia in 2003 and then fromArgentina in 2007.

A charge sheet was filed against Quattrocchi forallegedly receiving a payoff for brokering the Bofors gundeal.

The CBI had registered a criminal case on January 20,1990 to probe who were the beneficiaries of the payoffs in the1986 Bofors gun deal.

After completing its probe, the investigative agencyhad filed two charge sheets in the case -- first on October22, 1999 and the other on October 9, 2000.

The CBI had contended that there was no change in thegovernment''s stand on withdrawing the case against Quattrocchiin the wake of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) order,which had said that kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to lateWin Chaddha and Quattrocchi in the howitzer deal.

"The continuance of prosecution against Quattrocchiwill be unjustified. It is considered expedient in theinterest of justice that the proceedings against him shouldnot be continued and be withdrawn," CBI had pleaded in itsnine-page application seeking withdrawal of case.

Advocate Ajay Agrawal, who has been pursuing the casein the Supreme Court and had approached the trial courtagainst the CBI''s move to seek a closure of the case, hascontended in the court that the Centre and the agency weretrying to close the case despite having sufficient evidenceagainst Quattrocchi.

The plea was countered by the CBI which said it wasdifficult to secure presence of Quattrocchi for prosecutionand, moreover, all other accused are either dead or chargesagainst them have been quashed by the Delhi High Court. PTIABA AAC AKI SC

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