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Did Rajiv Gandhi receive commission for the Bofors deal?

In 2005, Delhi HC justice J.D. Kapoor gave a clean-chit to Rajiv Gandhi in the case.

In 2005, Delhi HC justice J.D. Kapoor gave a clean-chit to Rajiv Gandhi in the case.On Mar. 24 1986, a $285 million contract between the Government of India-led by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Swedish arms company Bofors was signed for the supply of 410 155 mm Howitzer field guns. On Apr. 16, 1987, Swedish Radio alleged that Bofors paid kickbacks to people from many countries, including top Swedish and Indian politicians and key defence officials, to seal the deal. After the revelations, the Indian government blacklisted Bofors in 1987, preventing the company from doing business in India.

Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman close to the Gandhi family, was named a middleman in the deal. While the investigation in the case was underway, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated for unrelated reasons by the LTTE on May 21, 1991. In 1997, the CBI filed a case against Quattrocchi, Win Chadha, Rajiv Gandhi, then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar and several others. The same year, Swiss banks released some 500 documents after years of legal wrangling.

On Oct. 22, 1999, when the NDA government led by the BJP was in power, the CBI filed the first chargesheet in the case. In the second half of 2001, Win Chadha and SK Bhatnagar died.

On Jun. 10, 2002, Delhi HC quashed all proceedings in the case. However, this was reversed by the apex court on Jul. 7, 2003. The central government changed after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and the Indian National Congress again came to power. On Feb. 5, 2004, the Delhi High Court quashed bribery charges against Rajiv Gandhi and others. On May 31, 2005, the Delhi HC dismissed the allegations against the British business brothers, Srichand, Gopichand, and Prakash Hinduja.

However, on Jan. 16, 2006, CBI claimed in an affidavit filed before the SC that they were still pursuing extradition orders for Quattrocchi. At the request of the CBI, the Interpol had a long-standing red corner notice to arrest Quattrocchi. Quattrocchi was detained in Argentina on Feb. 6 2007. On Mar. 4, 2011, a Delhi court provided temporary relief for Quattrocchi due to insufficient evidence against him. On Jul. 12, 2013, Quattrochi died of a heart attack in Milan.

Former CBI director Dr. A P Mukherjee released a book, ‘Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu, and Indrajit Gupta’, in Nov 2013, where he wrote that ‘Rajiv Gandhi wanted commission paid by defence suppliers to be used exclusively for the purpose of meeting expenses of running the Congress party’. Mukherjee said Gandhi explained his position during the meeting between him and Gandhi at the then Prime Minister's residence on Jun. 19, 1989.

However, Sten Lindstrom, the former head of Swedish police, who led the investigations, said ‘they did not find anything to suggest that Rajiv Gandhi had received payments. He was, however, guilty of knowing about the kickbacks and not taking action on them’.

In Feb, 2018, the CBI had filed an appeal challenging Delhi HC’s 2005 verdict discharging all the accused in the case. In Nov 2018, the apex court dismissed CBI's appeal. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi rejected the CBI plea seeking condonation of the 13-year delay in filing the appeal against the HC verdict. It said it was not convinced with the CBI grounds to condone over 4,500 days' delay in filing the appeal. However, the apex court said the CBI could raise all grounds in the appeal against the same high court verdict filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal who has also challenged the judgement.

On May 16, 2019, CBI withdrew its request seeking further permission to investigate the case.

Since Gandhi was given a clean chit in the case by Delhi High Court in 2004, and none of the charges levelled against him have been proven, we conclude the claim is not false.

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