India

Ahead of elections, CBI asks for reopening of Bofors case

A year ahead of crucial state elections, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sought the nod from central government to file a petition resulting in reopening of Bofors case. CBI officials said that permission has been sought to file Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court to reopen the case. It may be known that a SLP is for seeking a special permission to be heard in the apex court in appeal against any judgment or order of any court or tribunal in the territory of India.

The SLP will be filed against the Delhi High Court order of May 31, 2005 that quashed charges against the Europe-based Hinduja brothers in the case. A parliamentary sub-committee on defence attached to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, had in July suggested that the case of irregularities in purchase of Bofors guns should be reopened as there were many “loopholes” in the investigation in past.

The CBI officials had then said that it could re-investigate the Bofors case only if a court order allowed it to.

Several MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also raised the issue in Parliament to re-open investigation in the case.

On Wednesday, the CBI had said it would look into the facts and circumstances mentioned in an interview of Michael Hershman, the first secret Bofors investigator of the Fairfax Group deployed by the Indian government.

He, during an interview to a TV news channel, said he was ready to testify and assist the Indian agencies in the Bofors case.

Hershman said VP Singh, then finance minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, had hired him in 1986 to probe certain issues involving suspected violations of currency control laws by about a dozen wealthy Indians. At that time Hershman ran Fairfax Group, a private investigation firm.

The deal for 410 Bofors howitzers was sealed in March 1986.

The alleged corruption in the Bofors guns deal had created a scandal in 1989, leading to the fall of Rajiv Gandhi government. Kickbacks were alleged, but no evidence was found.

In 1986, then Finance Minister V.P. Singh ordered an investigation. To do so, Singh had got in touch with private investigation group Fairfax.

Now, the six-member Public Accounts Committee’s sub-committee on defence is looking into non-compliance of certain aspects of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of 1986 on the deal.

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