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Quattrocchi free man, leaves for Italy

August 15, 2007 09:36 IST

Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrocchi on Wednesday walked free out of Argentina after a six- month legal battle following India's failure to appeal against a court's decision not to extradite him.

The 69-year-old businessman left this country for his home in Milan in his native Italy. His passport was returned by Argentinian authorities last week.

Speaking from the airport, Quattrocchi told PTI that he was happy to be on his way home and was looking forward to spending time with his family.

Information on the case has been closely guarded since the failure of the Central Bureau of Investigation's extradition attempt in Eldorado on June 8.

Neither the CBI nor its Argentinian prosecutors Miguel Almeyra and Lilian Delgado got orders for appealing in the Supreme Court against the lower court's order not granting the Indian plea for Quattrocchi's extradition, sources said.

Indian Ambassador Pramanesh Rath said through a spokesperson that he would not like to comment on the issue.

Quattrocchi was detained at Iguazu airport in Argentina's Misiones province on February 6 on the basis of a Red Corner Notice issued by Interpol at the behest of the CBI.

His wife, who was with him in Argentina, had left for Italy three months ago.

The businessman, who had earlier successfully fought a similar extradition battle against Malaysian authorities, maintained that he has been "a victim of an obsessive persecution" by Indian investigative authorities.

Quattrocchi said, "The CBI has gone out of its way, breaking every rule of honest conduct to go after me in what has clearly been a political persecution.

"This is demonstrated by the fact that I have won every single case in a court of law in connection with the Bofors case, and this continued persecution makes you think that at the end, they are only interested in kicking up a media frenzy for ulterior motives."

While the presiding judge in Eldorado, Mario Harichi Doi, refused to go into the accusations by Quattrocchi's legal counsel that the motivations for his arrest were political, he cites "irregularities detected" in the CBI's handling of the case in a written ruling.

Doi stated: "It must be noted that the preventative arrest took place because there is an arrest warrant issued by a special judge in Delhi, dated May 25, 1997; consequently the request of extradition had to be based on that warrant and the relevant documentation should have been enclosed in compliance with the formalities provided for in the International Law of Cooperation, and not by using -- with no explanation whatsoever -- a new arrest warrant issued after Quattrocchi's detention."

Quattrocchi said, "Unfortunately my friendships made me the target of all sorts of political attacks that may not be aimed at me, but at people I was friends with.

"The fact, however, is that I suffered immense damage as a result. Being a foreigner also made me a more appealing target for all sorts of contorted political conspiracies."

It is understood that the Red Corner Notice against Quattrocchi will remain in effect for now.

Speaking about the notice for his arrest, Quattrocchi said he "strongly believed that Interpol did not exercise due care with the issuance of the Red Corner Notice against me."

Asked about the future of the case, Quattrocchi cited his success in legal battles linked to the Bofors case in Malaysia, Britain and now Argentina and said he would "certainly press on with all legal remedies at my disposal and may even take the CBI to court for moral and material damage."

"I have won every single case brought against me in a court of law. Both the Malaysian and Argentine judiciaries have (asked) India to pay costs to me. After 22 years I think it is time the CBI closes the case which has become more of an
obsession and where not a single iota of evidence has been produced to support any charge of wrongdoing," he said.

Rebecca Wright in Buenos Aires
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