The court in Argentina dismissed the Indian government's plea to extradite Ottavio Quattrocchi. The court ordered the Indian government to compensate Quattrocchi for legal costs to contest a case without basis. This should cause no surprise. How could any court rely on CBI allegations when the Indian government's law ministry had recorded that there was no case against Quattrocchi? A recent report in The Indian Express recalled how the government's law officers kept CBI officials in the dark while informing Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that Quattrocchi's frozen accounts may be released because there was no case against him. This, while CBI officials were urging on CPS to keep Quattrocchi's accounts frozen! Why our government persists with Quattrocchi's extradition despite this may concern parliament, not foreign governments.
Quattrocchi obviously was supported by powerful forces in India to get his frozen UK accounts released. Did supporters also aid him in Argentina? Quattrocchi's lawyer Alejandro Freeland told a news agency that CBI did not argue its case fully. He said: 'CBI brought only half the papers relating to the case.' How did he know this? Was Quattrocchi's defence counsel privy to material used by the prosecution? This would not sound far-fetched if Quattrocchi's long reach in India were recognized. Some underplayed aspects of the Jain Hawala case exposed that long reach.
The Jain Hawala case has been rubbished by media. But last fortnight two events authenticated the case. On June 6 the Enforcement Directorate passed an adjudication order on the case finding the Jain brothers and Amir Bhai guilty. A penalty totaling Rs 30 crore was imposed. The connection of the Jain Hawala case to terrorism was authenticated by the second event. Mulchand Shah had brought Jain's hawala funds from Mumbai to Delhi in 1991. He was detained by CBI but released after the Jain diary which listed the names of the leading politicians was seized. He was released to insulate politicians from the TADA terrorism case. Last fortnight Mulchand Shah was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case for distributing arms to the rioters in Mumbai.
What has all this got to do with Quattrocchi? Plenty. Implicated politicians in the Jain Hawala case may have been unaware of the terrorist or hawala angle. Quattrocchi knew everything. The recorded confessional statement of SK Jain to CBI, admitted in the Supreme Court as evidence, now deserves to be read again. It was recorded by CBI officers Amod Kanth, DIG, and MP Singh, SP, on 12 March 1995. The following statements are excerpted from SK Jain's confession.
'I came in contact with Mr Quattrocchi, representative of Snam Progetti, towards the end of 1982 or in the beginning of 1983. Around 1987 in Jammu and Kashmir the Hydro Project of Uri came to be tendered. M/s Scanska of Sweden, a consortium of several companies, tendered for the same. ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) was one of the companies in the said consortium. Mr Benbourn, the Executive Vice President of ABB, was known to me. I introduced him to Mr Quattrocchi. Mr Quattrocchi thereafter put Mr Benbourn in touch with Mr Rajiv Gandhi. Mr Quattrocchi worked as a middleman for getting the Uri contract awarded to Scanska by Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. I was to get the work of erection and fabrication in the Uri Project for Rs 300 to 400 crores. In the meantime terrorist activities started in Uri and I lost interest in the jobs.'
In his confession Jain was deliberately vague about the terrorist angle. This suited the CBI. The CBI was recording this confession to implicate Narasimha Rao through Jain's disclosure that he had made payments to Rao after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Prime Minister Rao thereby was implicated although his corruption was not part of the Jain Hawala case. That facilitated burial of the Jain Hawala case and protected other implicated leaders. Contrary to media falsehoods Rao did not encourage the case but actually helped bury it.
Continuing his confession Jain said: 'With regard to the commission I had insisted upon payments in Indian rupees in India. Quattrocchi brought Amir Bhai to my office saying he would make me payment in Indian rupees. Amir Bhai was a very close confidant of Mr Quattrocchi. My share of the commission was 18 to 19 million dollars in the account of Amir Bhai to be delivered to me in Indian rupees as and when I asked for the same.
'During 1989 the work of Cintering Plant of Durgapur Steel Plant was awarded to M/s Tyaza Permo Export, a Government of Russia undertaking. While awarding the contract there was a demand of Rs 10.5 crores towards political expenses of Delhi. Since TP was the government undertaking of Russia they could not make direct payment towards political expenses. They could make the payment to our company from where amount could be given towards political expenses. I paid Rs 10.5 crores in installments to Shri Satish Sharma in Holiday Inn Hotel in New Delhi. Shri Satish Sharma told me the same amount was sent to the Prime Minister of India, Shri Rajiv Gandhi. Satish Sharma told me that instead of showing his connection with the said amount its payment may be connected to Lalit Suri in whose hotel the payment was made. I accordingly directed JK Jain to show the payment in the name of Lalit Suri while accounting the same.
'I had paid Rs 4 crores to Shri Rajiv Gandhi during March to May 1991. Rs 2 crores was collected by Mr George, Private Secretary to Shri Gandhi in March 1991. JK Jain knew this amount was going to Shri Rajiv Gandhi and therefore entered the disbursement in the diary under code name 'RG'.'
Work in the Uri project was stalled after terrorists kidnapped a foreign engineer. To secure his release terrorists were paid from Jain Hawala money. Thereafter work was resumed. Quattrocchi therefore was not only familiar with hawala transactions through his ties with Amir Bhai, was not only the fixer who obtained contracts through Rajiv Gandhi, but very likely was also the mastermind who directed payment to the Kashmir terrorists for resumption of work in the Uri Project in which he had a financial interest.
The Left parties want information regarding CBI's plea in the Argentina court. They should demand more. They should demand access to every single court record and transcript of proceedings in the Quattrocchi extradition case. The jibe by Quattrocchi's lawyer, that CBI did not argue its case properly, might well be perceived then in an altogether different, sinister light.