Whom did Chadha and Quattrocchi pay off?
There is something faintly ridiculous about Tiger Joginder's
latest posturings on the Bofors issue. Each day the CBI spokesman
appears on television to tell us which hapless retired general
has been summoned to the CGO Complex and the Bureau issues press
release after press release about Special Investigating Teams
and new investigations.
Nobody at the CBI seems to have realised that there is nothing
to be gained from interrogating former defence secretaries and
service chiefs. We've been down this road twice before and nothing
remains to be learnt. (Though of course, it does help to get Tiger
and friends on television night after night.)
Nor is there any great mystery about the bundle of documents that
occupied the seat next to Tiger on the flight back from Switzerland.
Everybody knows that the Hinduja documents were not transferred
-- that will take another month or two.
For those of you with short memories -- and Bofors was a long
time ago -- let me remind you that the key issue was not the
quality of the gun. Both Bofors and Sofma, the two principal contenders,
made perfectly acceptable howitzers. The problem was deciding
which one was more suited to the Indian army's needs.
A section of the army preferred Sofma. Others, including General
Sundarji, thought that Bofors was a better choice. Inevitably
the differences became personalised and after a while, merit was
submerged in a fog of army politics.
Eventually, Army Headquarters chose Bofors and the Cabinet cleared
the recommendation within 24 hours. General Sundarji has repeatedly
said that nobody forced him to choose Bofors over Sofma and while
there are generals who believe that Sundarji made the wrong choice,
it has never been suggested the Bofors paid him off.
The issue therefore, is not the selection, but the kickbacks.
If you focus on the selection, you make the mistake of believing
that because Bofors offered money, it got the order.
But that's not the point because everybody offered money. All
arms manufacturers pay commissions of several million dollars on
large orders. If Sofma had got the deal, it would have paid off
its agents. And those agents would have had to share the loot
with the political establishment.
As it turned out, Bofors got the contract, and it paid out $
640 million. But the politicians were secure either way. Regardless
of who got the deal, they would have made money.
The point is: Who did Bofors pay? What services did they perform?
And who did these recipients pay off in turn? So far, we've all
had a fairly shrewd idea of who these recipients were but no investigator
could go further because there was no documentary evidence.
Now the CBI has finally been given the evidence by the Swiss.
The logical course of action would be to launch extradition proceedings
against Ottavio Quattrocchi and Win Chadha, and to get them to explain why
they made millions out of Bofors.
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