The revelations of the former Swedish Police Chief Mr.Sten Lindstrom about the "political payments' made by Bofors in order to sell field guns to India in the 1980s has come as a huge embarrassment to the ruling United Progressive Alliance government, the Congress Party and the Nehru-Gandhi family, all of whom have been working overtime to shield those who took bribes and commissions from Bofors 25 years ago.Mr.Lindstrom, who was the police chief who probed the allegations of  bribery in the Bofors-India deal, has now revealed in an interview  that he was the "deep throat" , the whistle blower, who gave documents  exposing the scandal to Chitra Subramaniam and some select  journalists. In fact, no person in the world is better equipped to tell this story than Mr.Lindstrom, because he laid his hands on Bofors company documents and interviewed top bosses of the Bofors Company. 

The main points made by him are as follows: There was no direct evidence that Rajiv Gandhi received a bribe, but he watched the "massive cover-up" in India and Sweden and did nothing; there was  conclusive evidence about payments made by Bofors to Ottavio  Quattrochchi, a close family friend of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi; bribes paid by Bofors landed in Quattrochchi's account through his front  company - A.E.Services; the payments made to Quattrochchi's company  were "political payments", nobody in India or Sweden was allowed to  interrogate Quatrochchi; Martin Ardbo, the Chairman of Bofors was  "terrified" about the fact  that the payments to Quattrochchi would  become public; Ardbo wrote in his diary that the identity of "Q"  should never be revealed because of his closeness to "R"; some Indian  investigators wanted Lindstrom to falsely implicate Amitabh Bachchan; and Indian investigators did everything  to hush up the probe.

The timing of Mr.Lindstrom's statement could not have been worse, as far as the Congress Party is concerned, because it comes just when the UPA is caught in a political and administrative quagmire and the second phase of the budget session of parliament has just resumed. The Congress Party's response to the fresh revelations by Lindstrom is indeed laughable. While it is true that Lindstrom has said that there was no evidence to directly implicate Rajiv Gandhi, he has directly implicated Ottavio Quattrocchi as a beneficiary and said the payments made to the latter's company - A.E Services - were "political  payments". The Congress Party's spokespersons are going gaga over the fact that Lindstrom has "exonerated" Rajiv Gandhi, but have nothing to say about the damning indictment of Ottavio Quattrochchi, a dear friend of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi, who received U.S $ 7.3 million from  Bofors.

The facts are as follows: The Bofors saga began in the early 1980s when the army pressed for purchase of field guns. The three main contenders for the contract were Sofma of France, AB Bofors from  Sweden and Voest Alpine from Austria. Throughout the evaluation process Sofma was ahead of the others but in the final stages, Bofors  pipped Sofma at the post. Material gathered by the CBI from Sweden and Switzerland clearly establish Quattrocchi's hand in Bofors' success.

 Bofors entered into a contract with a company called A.E. Services in the latter part of 1985 offering three per cent commission to it if the Indian contract was concluded before March 31, 1986. Strangely,  the Rajiv Gandhi government signed the contract with Bofors on March 24, 1986 - just one week before the expiry of this deadline. Two months later, India paid the first tranche of 20 per cent of the  contract sum and Bofors, as per its deal, transferred US $ 7.343 million to the A.E.Services account in Nordfinanz Bank, Zurich. The investigators found that A.E.Services in turn had transferred this  money to the account of Colbar Investments operated by Ottavio  Quattrocchi and his wife Maria. How did Quattrocchi, an Italian, manage to swing the deal before the expiry of the deadline? Who helped him achieve this extraordinary feat? These questions have been nagging Indians ever since that fateful Swedish Radio broadcast in April, 1987 that spoke of bribes paid by Bofors to clinch the Indian contract.

Thereafter, in the mid-1990s the CBI brought bank documents from Switzerland to prove that Quattrochchi had received U S $ 7.3 million from Bofors. After the UPA came to power in 2004, the Manmohan Singh government systematically began to takje measures to bail out Quattrochchi. The Karnataka Governor Mr.H.R.Bharadwaj, then the Union Law Minister, supervised the cover up operation. Despite an Interpol notice against Quattrochchi, Bhardwaj ensured that he was not  extradicted to India after his arrest in Argentina. Thereafter, Manmohan Singh government rebdered two other extraordinary services to the Nehru-Gandhi family and Quattrochchi. The Italian businessman's  bank account in the U.K had been frozen after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government sent a request to that government. The UPA Government ensured that an Indian law officer went to London quietly to inform the U.K. government that India had no objection to defreeze Quattrochchi’s account in that country. Following this request, the bank account was unfrozen and Quattrochchi immediately withdrew the U.S $ 7.3million and moved it to another account in another country.  Thereafter, the government rendered signal service to the Nehru-Gandhis by ensuring that the CBI made an application before the court in Delhi to withdraw the criminal case of bribery against Quattrochchi. Dr.Manmohan Singh has thus shown that he cares more to the "Khas Admi" of the Gandhi family than for the "Aam Aadmi" of India.

Mr.Lindstrom's observations must put to shame our investigating agencies, our system of justice and the leaders of the Congress Party who have worked overtime to allow the culprits to get away. The simple question that India has been asking for the last 25 years is: Why did Bofors pay Quattrochchi, an Italian businessman and friend of the Nehru-Gandhis U.S $ 7.3 million when we purchased guns for our army?  Why did the Manmohan Singh government ask the U.K authorities to de-freeze his accounts so that he could clean out the loot? Why did the Manmohan Singh government ask the CBI to withdraw the case against his man, despite the evidence of him having got the money?

This brings us to the question: Will the Bofors ghost be ever exorcised?  The answer is a firm No. Given the shameful manner in which the Congress-led government ensured the withdrawal of the case against Quattrochchi and the cunning manner in which it de-froze the accounts of Quattrochchi in the U.K and allowed him to escape with the loot, this ghost will forever be on the prowl and will come to haunt the Nehru-Gandhis and the Congress Party time and again. Despite all their efforts to hush up this case, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal held last year that Bofors paid commissions to  uattrochchi. So, this way, this scandal will pop up again and again. In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi used to warn us about the "foreign hand" that would destabilize and debilitate India. On the 25 th anniversary of the Bofors Scandal, we must remember the caution and advice she gave us and be ever vigilant about the "foreign hand" if we wish to protect our national sovereignty.