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Commentary/Mani Shankar Aiyar

There are two main reasons for which the termination of the AE contract and the termination of Arun Nehru's ministership appear to be connected:

Documents published by the Indian Express reveal that although Arun Nehru, as MoS power, was in no way entrusted with the defence negotiations relating to the 155 mm howitzer, he sent for the Swedish charge d' affairs (acting ambassador) while Shri Rajiv Gandhi was abroad. The Swedish diplomat was so impressed that he sent a long and detailed report to his headquarters -- which was subsequently discovered and published.

  • The diary notations of Martin Ardbo, president of Bofors, refer to one 'N'. It is the same diary that also refers to 'R' and 'Q'. Who is 'N' and why is he at all involved with Ardbo, Bob Wilson of AE Service and Quattrocchi? This is the most important angle calling for further investigation.

    What needs to be investigated is whether 'N' and Arun Nehru are one and the same person. If so, was it 'N', using his apparent political clout and inside knowledge, who set up the AE scam after learning of the Rajiv-Palme agreement? Was that the reason why, on learning of Arun Nehru's fall from political grace, Bofors had no more use for him and terminated the contract? Is that why Ardbo says in his diary: 'N, one does not care about.' Why does one 'not care about' N?

    There are two related points that also need to be investigated:

  • The documents published in facsimile in Swedish (with an English translation) by the Indian Express/Hindu on 13/10/89 quote the Bofors official who was interrogated by the Swedish national audit bureau, an investigative agency, as reporting to his superiors that, 'On AE Services, I was not pushed.' Why? If, as is being alleged, AE Service is no more than a letter-box address, why did the Swedish investigators not 'push' the top Bofors official to explain why such a large sum of money had been paid to such a tiny outfit, an outfit with no apparent connection to the Bofors-India contract?

    Was it because the Swedish authorities knew that AE Service had long been used by Bofors for industrial espionage in several countries? Please note that Bofors had officially informed the Government of India in July 1987 that AE Services had been used by them to obtain 'information on competitors' in India and 'other countries'.

    Did 'N' and Quattrocchi hatch a conspiracy together to use the clandestine AE channel to Martin Ardbo to set up the scam? Is that why no one in Bofors, apart from its president Martin Ardbo, seems to have known anything about the reason for the payment to AE? Was this, perhaps, Ardbo's private enterprise, not a Bofors initiative as such?

  • The Ardbo diary refers to a 'Gandhi Trust lawyer'. There is no evidence of there being any 'Gandhi Trust'. Did 'N', Bob Wilson of AE and Quattrocchi take advantage or Ardbo's total ignorance of India (he spells Nehru as 'Nero' and Swraj Paul as 'Serge Paul'!) to con him into thinking they were representing the Indian PM? Was Ardbo himself perhaps a beneficiary of the scam?

    Now that Quattrocchi has been identified as an illegitimate recipient of the secret Bofors pay-off, we the Congress demand that:

  • The CBI arrest Quattrocchi and bring him to India for further investigation and prosecution;

  • The CBI interrogate Quattrocchi, Wilson, Ardbo and other concerned to establish the identity of 'N'. 'N' himself must be arrested and interrogated;

  • The trial from Zurich to Geneva to Guernsey and possibly beyond must be investigated to establish whether there were any beneficiaries other than Quattrocchi. Was 'N' one of these beneficiaries? If so, why was he paid?

    We do not accept that because Quattrocchi has been identified as a recipient of the Bofors kickbacks that proves the involvement of Rajiv Gandhi. The following is for background information and for use as appropriate:

  • Quattrocchi first came to India while Rajiv Gandhi was in the UK completing his studies.

  • For 14 years after his return to India, Rajiv Gandhi was not in politics. It was during this period that the Gandhis got acquainted with the Quattrocchis. They were never close friends. And there was no involvement in Quattrocchi's business affairs.

  • Quattrocchi, like other foreign businessmen, build up contacts in India. These contacts extended to several political personalities, including 'N' of the Ardbo diaries. If, in the Bofors matter, there is a link from Quattrochi to any Indian national, it could be to any of the many he knew in India, including 'N'.

  • Quattrocchi never went on holiday anywhere with any member of Rajiv Gandhi's family, either before or after he became PM. Reports to this effect are fabrications without any foundation in fact. Quattrocchi never called on Rajiv Gandhi at his offices in South Block. This is a matter of record. The Quattrocchis were very infrequent visitors to the PM's residence. This too is a matter of record. At the same time, the CBI should check on who were the ministers Quattrocchi was frequently in touch with during this period. Did those ministers include 'N'?

  • The CBI may also check on which were the contract Snamprogetti bid for but failed to get during Rajiv Gandhi's prime ministership.

  • As regards Snamprogetti's growing presence in India over nearly 40 years, it may be noted that Snamprogetti is one of the largest industrial houses in Italy; it is also among the leading firms in its area of operations in the world. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Snam also had a presence in India, a presence that grew as the economy was progressively opened to foreign participation. Snam's growing presence in India had to do with this rather than any alleged proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

    Quattrocchi was no more than one among the many people known to Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi. It is not true to say that they were particularly close.

    There is no connection, known or alleged, between Win Chadha of Anatronics and Svenska, the two recipients of the Bofors pay-offs and Rajiv Gandhi. We, the Congress, demand the arrest of Win Chadha and his being brought back to India for interrogation and prosecution.

    There is no confirmation yet as to who is or are the owners of the sixth Swiss bank account which Bofors have made payments. We demand that the government continue to press the Swiss government to give us the documents relating to transactions in the sixth account.

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  • Mani Shankar Aiyar

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