President Pranab Mukherjee ignites Bofors scandal row; what's the controversy all about: Explained

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New Delhi, May 26: Infamous Bofors scam or scandal once again made headlines in India on Tuesday, May 26, thanks to President of the country -- Pranab Mukherjee.

The President claimed that Bofors should not be called "a scam or scandal" as it was not proved to be a scandal in any court of the country. He rather claimed that it was a "media trial' which actually established the case as a "scandal".

[Bofors scandal was a media trial, charges 'yet to be proved' in court, says Pranab Mukherjee]

Bofors scam

What is Bofors Scam:

  • Bofors scandal hit Indian during 1980s and 1990s. This was related to an arm deal between India and Sweden.
  • The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and many other politicians were accused of taking bribe from Bofors AB.
  • The firm was accused of giving kickbacks to Indian politicians in order to win a bid to supply India's 155 mm field howitzer.
  • It was a US$1.3 billion deal between the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors with the government of India.
  • India bought 410 field howitzer guns.
  • It was alleged that many ruled were flouted and many institutions were not consulted before signing the deal.
  • flouting of rules and bypassing of institutions.
  • It was the biggest arms deal ever in Sweden.

The ill-effect of Bofors scam:

  • Rajiv Gandhi had faced the wrath of the Bofors scam.
  • His party Congress lost the general election of the country in 1989 for the scam.
  • It was alleged that the Swedish company paid Rs 640 million in kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials.
  • The scam came into light for the first time during Vishwanath Pratap Singh's (VP Singh's) tenure as defence minister.
  • He was forced to resign as the defence minister later as it was alleged that he had possessed information regarding Bofors scam that could damage Rajiv Gandhi's reputation.
  • VP Singh resigned from Congress and the Lok Sabha.

How was Bofors scam exposed?

  • Investigative journalism by a Reuters news brought the Bofors scam into light.
  • Later a team led by N Ram of the newspaper The Hindu carried several other reports about the scam.
  • The Hindu journalist Chitra Subramaniam secured over 350 documents that detailed the payoffs.
  • Later The Indian Express and The Statesman published many of her articles as The Hindu was compelled to stop publishing stories about the Bofors scandal.
  • The Hindu was under tremendous pressure of government for writing articles about Bofors scam.

Who were the main accused in the scam:

  • Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman, was one of the crucial middleman between Indian government and Bofors firm. Quattrocchi was known as one of the close aides of Rajiv Gandhi's family.
  • In 1999, CBI filed first chargesheet against filed the first chargesheet against Quattrocchi, Win Chadha, Rajiv Gandhi, the defence secretary SK Bhatnagar and a number of others.
  • In 2002, Delhi High Court quashed all proceedings in the Bofors scam.
  • The Supreme Court, however, in 2003 reversed Delhi High Court's order.
  • Quattrocchi, who was in Argentina, could not be extradited to India as there were no extradition treaty between India and Argentina.
  • Quattrocchi was given some relief as Delhi High Court in 2011 provided temporary relief due to lack of evidence.
  • Quattrocchi died of heart attack in Milan in 2013.

What's the current status of the Bofors case?

  • The case is still going on.
  • India, which blacklisted Bofors in 1987 following the allegations against the firm, lifted it in 1999.
  • The Bofors gun was used extensively as the primary field artillery during the Kargil War with Pakistan.

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