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The Rediff Interview / Kollaikal Madhavan

'The Swiss would never hand over the Bofors papers had there been no big crime'

Kollaikal Madhavan Ever since the Swiss government handed over the Bofors documents to India, Kollaikal Madhavan, the former joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, has been spending restless days at his ancestral home in Salem, in Tamil Nadu.

"I escaped from Delhi to avoid the media when the Bofors papers arrived in India, but the telephone here has not stopped ringing since then," the former supersleuth said.

It was Madhavan who cracked the Swiss bank accounts of those who allegedly received kickbacks in the Bofors deal. "I had painstakingly completed nearly 80 per cent investigations into the Bofors scandal," he says.

But sensing the danger that Madhavan's probe would bring to the public servants at home, the then Congress government is believed to have taken off the case from him on October 22, 1991. And feeling that political interference was becoming unbearable to his relentless investigative spirit, the CBI officer took premature retirement on November 1, 1992.

Madhavan now practises law at the Supreme Court.

In a telephonic interview with George Iype, the former CBI joint director told Rediff On The Net how the contents of the secret Bofors papers could change political equations in India. But he fears political interference could also very well bury the case forever. Excerpts from the conversation:

Will the contents of the Bofors papers be explosive?
The Bofors papers will be quite revealing because big names are sure to surface. The Swiss government would have never handed over these documents to India had there been no big crime.

Michel Andre Fels, the jurist in the Swiss justice ministry has stated that if the same crime had been committed in Switzerland, prosecution would have commenced immediately.

All these years the Swiss authorities have been maintaining that they would release the documents only if the bank transactions involved a big bribe. Thus these documents prove corruption and the ball is in India's court.

Up to what stage had you carried out investigations into the Bofors case?
I had completed nearly 80 per cent of investigations into the case. In fact, it was the CBI team led by me which succeeded in cracking the Swiss accounts -- Tulip, Lotus and Mount Blanc -- held on behalf of the appellants (the three Hindujas brothers, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Win Chadha).

Will the documents throw new light on the activity of these people?
Certainly. The papers will, especially, reveal the role of the Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.

Why is Quattrocchi's account the most important?
The final account into which Bofors made payments belonged to Quattrocchi. Therefore, his will be the most interesting account for the CBI to examine. Though Quattrocchi operated the account, I believe the documents will further reveal who the real owner of the account is.

But will the documents in the CBI custody contain details of Quattrocchi's account?
Definitely. I think so. The papers pertaining to Quattrocchi are expected to be an 'A' Form, which will list on whose behalf he held the secret Swiss account.

Do you think the CBI will be allowed to do an honest job?
I fear political interference can mar the prospects of the Bofors case.

Did you face political interference when you handled the Bofors case?
I did not face any political interference when I was investigating the Bofors case.

But you resigned from the CBI over your differences in the case with then director S K Dutta.
I took premature retirement when I was handling the securities scam. Yes, I had certain differences with the government on that case, but not on the Bofors case.

If the CBI does an honest job on Bofors, will it upset political equations in the country?
If the CBI is able to unearth the contents of the documents without any outside pressure then it could upset the current political equations in the country because Bofors is a politically sensitive case.

But can present Indian laws book the guilty if the CBI unearths the recipients of the Bofors booty?
If the Bofors documents prove that bribes had been paid under the guise of commissions, then the public servant becomes a bribe-taker which is punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Rediff Interview

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