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Aiyar on Bofors: Accusing Rajiv is tantamount to treachery

Last updated on: April 27, 2012 17:15 IST

'Bofors was not a scam but a sting operation, a conspiracy'



Congress member of Parliament Mani Shankar Aiyar says the Bofors case must be treated as closed and the Bharatiya Janata Party should learn that truth cannot be unveiled by resorting to "character assassination and downright lies".

Describing the Bofors case as a sting operation and not a scam, he said the V P Singh government in 1990 and the successive A B Vajpayee governments failed to provide conclusive evidence in courts in the case while they incorporated a martyr's name in a chargesheet filed eighth years after Rajiv Gandhi's death. "These are vultures who feed on carrion," Aiyar told PTI.

Following are excerpts from his interview:

What do you make of the resurfacing of the Bofors scam?

Bofors was not a scam but a sting operation. It was a conspiracy put together by businessmen who sought to take advantage of the joint decision by the Indian and the Swedish prime ministers to not allow any middlemen or commission agents in the Bofors transaction.

Why are the diaries of then Bofors chief Martin Ardbo so crucial to the allegations made?

To build an entire case around the Ardbo's diaries as a section of the Indian press and V P Singh's cohorts did was the root cause of the total failure of the successive non-Congress governments to find any substantive evidence that would hold up in court.

What of the central role in the allegations to the A E services?

Much is being made of the role of the A E Services, a United Kingdon company based in Guildford, Surrey to act as a conduit for the transfer of Bofors funds into a Swiss account.

It is ironical that a quarter century after the event, the then chief of the Swedish police should now claim that the Indian authorities were involved in a cover-up, when in fact it was the Swedish investigating agency that closed the investigation of A E Services, because they knew that A  E Services was an industrial espionage set up which had previously been used by Bofors on more than one occasion.

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Image: A view of the Bofors Howitzer
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/


'Accusing Rajiv of taking kickbacks is tantamount to treachery'

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But why should Bofors have paid anything to A E Services if it was not the middlemen?

The agreement with A E Services was for a payment in five installments into the designated Swiss bank accounts matching the five installments in which the Government of India was to pay for the guns. But only one instalment was ever paid in August 1986.

Are you then denying that any kickbacks were paid?

That the whole attempt to draw attention away from those who set up the deal to facilitate accusations against Rajiv Gandhi was based on claiming "kickbacks" were paid.

But why should kickbacks be paid for a gun which was undoubtedly the best 155mm artillery available and that too at the lowest price of all competitors, with the added advantage of a full indigenisation of manufacture and guaranteed availability of shells and ammunition?

Especially as it was the Bofors gun only that was responsible for repelling the attack on Kargil as quickly as we did.

Rajiv Gandhi opted for the Bofors gun precisely because of the acute angle it could fire on to mountain tops and because of its shoot and scoot ability to avoid US-supplied heat seeking radar to the Pakistan armed forces. After this proof, to accuse Rajiv Gandhi of taking or facilitating "kickbacks" for the purchase of the Bofors gun is tantamount to treachery.

Image: Former PM Rajiv Gandhi whose role in the Bofors scam has been under the scanner

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'BJP leaders are like vultures feeding on carrion'

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What do you make of V P Singh producing a paper out of his pocket in the 1989 election campaign claiming that he had on it the account number into which the bribe had been paid?

So convinced were V P Singh, Arun Nehru (former Union minister), Arun Jaitley (leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha) and others that they could nail Rajiv Gandhi that V P Singh won the election taking out a piece of paper from his pocket claiming that it contained a relevant account number and assuring a gullible electorate that within 15 days of becoming prime minister, he would put the guilty in jail.

Far from accomplishing anything in 15 days, he and his cohorts failed to establish anything over 11 months until he was kicked out of office.

In like manner three successive Vajpayee governments adorned with the present Rajya Sabha leader of the opposition (Jaitley), as a minister failed to provide conclusive evidence in three successive appearances before the Delhi high court, not withstanding the judicial travesty and moral repugnency of incorporating a martyr's name in a chargesheet filed eight years after Rajiv had fallen victim to a heinous assassination. These are vultures, who feed on carrion.

If you characterise the BJP today as "vultures feeding on carrion", how would you characterise Rajiv Gandhi?

Contrast their behaviour over 20 years with Rajiv Gandhi demanding in the Lok Sabha within a month of being defeated that Prime Minister V P Singh place all papers and all files relating to Bofors on the table of the house.

Would a guilty person invite the government to place the evidence against him in the public domain even before investigation or prosecution begins? That was Rajiv's finest moment, when he showed India and the world that victory or defeat, he was a Man of Honour.

Image: Former PM V P Singh

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'No conclusive evidence against Quattrocchi in Bofors case'

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While exonerating Rajiv Gandhi of having personally received any money, former Swedish police officer Sten Lindstrom accuses the Rajiv Gandhi government of having promoted a cover-up. What do you have to say?

As for the alleged cover-up, the Vajpayee government, with Arun Jaitley as its law minister were given opportunity after opportunity by the Malaysian courts to present their evidence against Ottavio Quattrocchi.

They so utterly failed that Quattrocchi was enabled to move from Malaysia to Argentina. To cover-up their Malaysian bungle they keep alleging that Quattrocchi "escaped" from India. Yes, he moved residence but that was because there was no conclusive proof against him then as there still is not.

A foreign policeman's allegation of political payments is no substitute of providing hard evidence that will withstand judicial scrutiny. Jaitley now says that it is important to ensure the independence of investigative agencies. Quite right. But what on earth did Jaitley do about such independence when for seven long years, that is all through 1990's and then for six years in 1998-2004 he was the legal luminary in the BJP.

So what is your final conclusion? Your final word?

There is only one reasonable conclusion to come to even if the screaming banshees of the BJP prevented me from having my say in reply to Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha and that is -- with the courts having again and again rejected these bogus allegations over an entire quarter century, the case must be regarded as closed and the BJP should learn that the truth cannot be unveiled by resorting to conspiracy, misrepresentation, character assassination and downright lies.

Image: Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi

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