Bofors resurrects, gives more ammo to BJP
File photo of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has directed that the late Win Chaddha, agent for AB Bofors, and Ottavio Quattrocchi, to pay income tax on the Rs 41 crore “kickbacks” received by both in the Bofors deal.
BJP demands special investigation team rather than CBI
BY Bijay Kumar Singh
There was more bad news for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre after the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) directed the late Win Chaddha, agent for AB Bofors, and Ottavio Quattrocchi, widely seen as close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and who also brokered the gun deal, to pay income tax on the Rs 41 crore “kickbacks” received by both in the transaction of the deal to buy howitzers from the Swedish company.
The 98-page ITAT order has provided further ammunition to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which at a press conference at the party headquarters slammed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for closing the case last year on the grounds that “no bribes and kickback were paid.”
Taking the Congress president head on, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley singled out Gandhi. “For Sonia Gandhi, it is a timely reminder that you don’t need five points to fight corruption. You only need one single point and that is send the guilty to jail rather than cover up their culpability,” he said.
Just a few days back, the Congress president had proffered a five-point programme to fight corruption at the party’s plenary session.
The ITAT gave this order while dismissing an appeal by the late Chaddha’s son against the Income Tax Department’s claim of over Rs 52 crore from his father’s income for the assessment years 1987-89 and 1988-89.
Jaitley has also demanded that a special investigation team (SIT) rather than the CBI look into the case since the latter functioned only at the behest of its political masters. “The fraud, which was covered by the CBI at the behest of its political masters, clearly stands unravelled now. After the judicial order, the CBI has no place to even hide its face,” he said.
“The finding of income tax tribunal contradicts the observation made by the CBI into the cases according to which no kickbacks were paid to anyone,” Jaitley added.
Launching into the government, Jaitley alleged that there was a complete disconnect between the two investigative arms of government.
“Now, after the IT tribunal’s claim, a strange situation has been created. On the one hand, we have the CBI which has given the clean chit to Quattrocchi and Win Chaddha and on the other hand, we have the income tax tribunal which says that the two were paid bribes in the Bofors deal.”
With Gandhi in the line of attack, the Congress party has reacted cautiously. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi turned down the demand for an immediate response, saying, “We cannot be hurried into responding just because the BJP has brought it up. Certainly we will react, but please give us time.” He further said that the party will first look at the full order of the ITAT before responding.
On a separate note, with both the finance minister and the prime minister apparently pulling in different directions on the issue of appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the party spokesperson clarified, “(Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee only stated the legal position that the prime minister is not bound by any law to appear before the PAC. Behind the PM’s offer also there was no legal or moral obligation. The PM’s statement was an unconditional offer which attempted to allay the fears of the opposition,” Singhvi said.