KNOW YOUR BOFORS

Print edition : November 13, 1999
The facts, the issues, and what lies ahead.

THE long-drawn-out Bofors drama has reached a legally and politically interesting stage. The Central Bureau of Investigation has concluded its investigation in the main and filed charge-sheets against five of the accused in the bribery case registered in 1990. They are S.K. Bhatnagar, former Defence Secretary; Ottavio Quattrocchi, wheeler-dealer and "close family friend" of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; W.N. ('Win') Chadha, Bofors' longstanding agent in India; Martin Ardbo, former president of A.B. Bofors; and A.B. Bofors (which now goes by the name of Celsius). In striking contrast to the official stance during the prolonged cover-up of the Bofors scandal, Column 2 of the charge-sheet includes the "late Rajiv Gandhi" himself as an accused who cannot be sent up for trial for obvious reasons. If charges have not yet been laid against the three Hinduja brothers, G.P., Prakash and Srichand, who find mention in the document as co-conspirators and recipients of Bofors payoffs, the indications are that a charge-sheet will be filed against them once the final set of bank documents - sought by the CBI from Switzerland and blocked by the brothers through dogged legal manoeuvres - are in hand.

With Judge Ajit Bharihoke of the Special Court for CBI cases taking cognizance of the charge-sheet, recording the opinion that "there is sufficient prima facie material on record to proceed" against the five accused parties, and directing issue of a non-bailable warrant against Quattrocchi and summons against the other four, the Bofors drama has entered a stage that could prove politically damaging for the Congress(I) and its president, Sonia Gandhi. In October-November 1999, she put her party in an unenviable position by requiring it to defend the indefensible, thus making it hostage to Bofors once again. This attitude is very much in line with the famous official response of the Rajiv Gandhi government, in April 1987, to the original bribery charges that surfaced in the Swedish media: "false, baseless and mischievous."

With Sonia leading from the front and proclaiming in Parliament that her party "shall not tolerate the framing of an innocent man who is not in a position to defend himself", loyal camp-followers have been reduced to twisting the documented facts ludicrously and denying the crux of the criminal case in a confused, shrill, almost hysterical way. One camp-follower has even put out a new line that Rajiv Gandhi, who was squeaky clean on Bofors, might have been the victim of a 'sting' set up by Quattrocchi and Arun Nehru, and that Bofors itself, which paid no bribes but only 'winding-up' charges, might have been among those who were "cheated".1

IN the face of such attitudes, the crux of the Bofors criminal case, as investigated by the CBI, deserves emphasis. It is laid out in legalese, but clearly enough, in the CBI's charge-sheet: "... between 1982 and 1987, certain public servants entered into a criminal conspiracy with W.N. Chadha, Martin Ardbo, G.P. Hinduja and others in India and abroad, and in pursuance thereof, committed offences of criminal conspiracy, bribery, criminal misconduct by public servants, cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery for the purpose of cheating and using as genuine a forged document in respect of the contract dated March 24, 1986 entered into between Government of India and M/s. AB Bofors." Further, the charge-sheet alleges, "the accused S.K. Bhatnagar, W.N. Chadha... Ottavio Quattrocchi, Martin Ardbo, M/s. Bofors and the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi entered into/were parties to a criminal conspiracy with some persons at New Delhi (India), Sweden, Switzerland and other places during the period 1985-87 and thereafter, with an object to award a contract by Government of India in favour of M/s Bofors" for the purchase of Bofors 155 mm howitzers "by abuse of official position by the abovesaid public servants and for causing wrongful gain to private persons/others and corresponding loss to the Government of India in the said gun deal." Take away the vital part played in the Bofors case by "public servants", as defined under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947, and the bribery charges have no leg to stand on.

A bank document involving A.B. Bofors, Pitco, Sangam Ltd, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and Sveriges Riksbank, the Swedish Central Bank. It is an application for making a foreign exchange remittance, payable as "provision" (commission), to Pitco c/o Sangam Ltd, London, by Bofors. The document is dated November 17, 1982.-

Yet, the documented facts have bribery written all over them. A massive order of illegitimate and unacknowledged payments, termed "commissions" and calculated on a percentage basis, was made by the Swedish arms manufacturing company into secret Swiss bank accounts after the Indian howitzer contract was won on March 24, 1986. The internal Bofors documents, seized by the Swedish police, gained by The Hindu's investigation in 1988-89, and verified in the CBI investigation, have made it absolutely clear that the payoffs made by Bofors were directly contingent on winning the contract.

The payments were specifically for 410 field howitzers and accessories the Rajiv Gandhi government purchased from Bofors as part of an SEK 8.41 billion or Rs. 1,437.72 crores advanced 155 mm gun system. Had Bofors lost the contract to its French rival, Sofma, or to any other bidder, there would have been no question of paying these "commissions" to the contracted parties.

THE $50 million payoffs were in flagrant contradiction with assurances repeatedly given by Bofors to the Government of India to the effect that it had no agents or representatives in India for the howitzer deal.

Between May and July 1984, the Negotiating Committee set up, for the howitzer acquisition, by the Ministry of Defence was officially informed by the four shortlisted suppliers, Sofma, Bofors, the International Military Services Ltd of the United Kingdom and Voest Alpine of Austria, about their agents in India. Bofors identified W.N. Chadha as its agent. Following a discussion of the matter in the Negotiating Committee, its chairman, Defence Secretary Bhatnagar, met representatives of the four shortlisted howitzer manufacturers on May 3, 1985. He informed them that "the present Government did not approve of the appointment of Indian agents acting for foreign suppliers"; that in case they had made provision for any commission for their Indian agents, they should make a suitable reduction in their offers; and that they would be "disqualified" if it came to the notice of the Government of India that they had appointed Indian agents. Ardbo was specifically given this message. In response, he confirmed to Bhatnagar that Chadha was acting as Bofors' agent in India, and promised that he would consider the advice of the Defence Secretary on the Indian Government's policy and take "necessary action". Ardbo, however, did not disclose the name of any other agent. On July 22, 1985, a telex message arrived from the Military Attache at the Indian High Commission in London mentioning Chadha as a Bofors representative in India, but Bhatnagar failed to ask Bofors for a clarification on this.

So squeaky clean did the Indian Government want to appear in the matter of defence deals that in October 1985 Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (according to a 1987 official communication from Bofors) "emphasised" in a New York meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme that "Bofors should not utilise middlemen for the purpose of winning the contract".

The percentage-based "commissions" were subsequently declared by Bofors, when the storm over bribes broke out in Sweden and India, to be "winding up costs", that is, out-of-court settlements of contractual obligations. And this version was touchingly accepted by the Rajiv Gandhi government, even after the documentary evidence gained by The Hindu (from unimpeachable sources in Sweden) that demolished the "winding up" story continued to pile up.

WHO were the principal recipients of the Bofors payoffs? What is interesting is that the answer to this question furnished in 1988-89 by the journalistic investigation has been vindicated fully. The payment documents, read along with the relevant Ardbo diary entries and notes, have established the following. Win Chadha, the acknowledged Bofors "agent", and the Hindujas, who have always denied that they had anything to do with the Bofors-India howitzer deal, had to be paid as owners of older 'commission entitlements' (the Svenska-Chadha entitlement and the Pitco-Moresco-Hinduja entitlement) while the mysterious shell company, A.E. Services Ltd, was a new entrant that could not possibly have performed any service other than a politically corrupt one.

The 1987 diary and "daily notes" kept by Ardbo, the Bofors chief executive, offer dark hints about the involvement of Rajiv Gandhi ("R" of Ardbo's handwritten record), Olof Palme ("P"), Arun Nehru ("Nero" and "N"), the Hindujas (referred to variously as "Hanssons", "G.P.H.", "H", and "S.P.,G.P.", Ottavio Quattrocchi ("Q"), Bob Wilson ("Bob") and others involved in the affair.

Subsequently, it came to light in the Swiss legal and official process that the seven appellants whose cases were dismissed by Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Court, in July 1993 were Gopichand Hinduja, Srichand Hinduja, Prakash Hinduja, Jubilee Finance Corporation, W.N. Chadha, Svenska Inc., and Quattrocchi. This revelation set the stage for the arrival of some 500 pages of Swiss bank documents and related papers containing explosive information on the recipients and the deep end of the payoffs.

The bank documents relating to the three Hinduja brothers as recipients of Bofors payoffs are awaited. But so far as Chadha is concerned, the CBI investigation has nailed him as the person behind the Panama-based Svenska Inc., which received a payment of SEK 188.40 ($29.44 million) for the Bofors-India howitzer deal. The charge-sheet mentions that although Chadha denied "any connection with or even knowledge of Svenska Inc." before the Joint Parliamentary Committee and the Income Tax authorities, the investigation had established that Chadha had "full Power of Attorney with the fullest rights and power to substitute any one's else name in place of its own, to open and operate an account on behalf of M/s Svenska Inc." Furthermore, the investigation found that the Bofors payoffs were credited to Chadha's Account No. 99921-TU with the Swiss Bank Corporation, Geneva. Chadha, it turned out, had given full powers of Attorney for this account to his wife, Kanta W. Chadha, and his son, Hersh W. Chadha.

But the real investigative breakthrough relates to Quattrocchi, the 'Q' of the Ardbo diary, as the mover behind Bofors' payment to the shell company, A.E. Services Ltd. The Swiss bank documents, and the CBI's resourceful investigation of the neck-deep involvement of this "close family friend" of Rajiv Gandhi, have taken our knowledge of the powerful interest behind A.E. Services Ltd much beyond what the media investigation was able to discover in 1988-1990. In a sworn affidavit dated December 10, 1993, Myles Stott of A.E. Services Ltd disclosed that "the initial approach to me came from Ottavio Quattrocchi" and that "as a result of this approach, I requested R.A. W(ilson) to contact Ardbo". He added that "consequently, a contract was drawn up between A.E. Services and Bofors dated November 15, 1985". Stott also revealed that he received key transactional instructions from one S.I. Mubarak ("SIM"). "In August 1986 I was requested to open an account with Nordfinanz (NFZ) Bank in Zurich in the name of A.E. Services Ltd. On September 8, 1986, NFZ account was credited with a transfer made by Bofors of $7.3 million... SIM was informed of this receipt and instructed me to make various disbursements of which the largest sum... was to be made to Colbar Investments, a Panamanian company."

THE documents in the CBI's possession establish Quattrocchi's deep-end involvement in the Bofors corruption scandal. On September 3, 1986, Bofors remitted a sum of SEK 50.46 million ($7.34 million) to Account No. 18051-53 with Nordfinanz Bank, Zurich. In September 1986, amounts totalling $7.25 million were transferred out of this account into Account No. 254.561.60 W of M/s Colbar Investments Limited Inc., Panama with the Union Bank of Switzerland, Geneva. On July 25, 1988, an amount of $7.94 million was transferred out of the Colbar account to Account No. 488.320.60 X of M/s Wetelsen Overseas SA with the Union Bank of Switzerland, Geneva. On May 21, 1990, an amount of $9.20 million was transferred out of the Wetelsen account to Account No. 123983 of International Investments Development Co. with Ansbacher (CI) Limited, Guernsey, Channel Islands. Within ten days of its receipt in Guernsey, the amount of $9.20 million was channelled into various accounts in Switzerland and Austria.

Quattrocchi has maintained that he had "nothing to do with Bofors", that he did not receive any payment from Bofors, that he did not introduce Bofors to A.E. Services, and that he did not have "any connection with A.E. Services" ("Quattrocchi breaks his silence", cover story interview in Outlook, March 22, 1999). More surprisingly, on August 13, 1999, Sonia Gandhi felt confident enough to speak up for Quattrocchi at her first press conference: "The CBI has found him suspect. But we have not seen till today the papers that he has done something."

A devastating factual answer came within months in the CBI's charge-sheet. The criminal investigation has established beyond any dispute that Quattrocchi made "the initial approach" to Stott and that, in consequence, Bob Wilson contacted Ardbo, a contract, dated November 15, 1985, was drawn up between A.E. Services Ltd and Bofors, an account was opened for the shell company in Nordfinanz Bank, Bofors paid a hefty bribe into this account, and this money was subsequently channelled, in a chain of secret transactions in new places, to a very deep end. The CBI's investigation has also been able to establish that the Colbar and Wetelsen accounts into which the Bofors bribe was transferred were controlled by Ottavio and Maria Quattrocchi.

ANALYTICALLY, the Bofors-India kickback affair can be understood in terms of five modes of action. The first is the decision-making on the choice of howitzer. The second comprises the arrangements for the payoffs. The third is the cover-up and crisis management. The fourth is the journalistic investigation and expose. The fifth is the CBI's criminal investigation, assisted by the Swiss Federal Police and the Swiss courts, and prosecution before Judge Bharihoke's Special Court for CBI cases.

The first two modes of action - the process of decision-making and the related arrangements for secret payoffs into the Swiss bank accounts - constitute a set and belong squarely to the past. The three other modes of action - the cover-up and crisis management, the journalistic investigation, and the CBI's criminal investigation and prosecution - form the other set. They are still in progress, although the end of the road may not be too far away.

What is the hard information we have on the decision-making on the howitzer? The record available to the official investigation shows that from 1980 the Government of India was looking out for a state-of-the-art 155 mm howitzer system to meet defence operational requirements that were said to be urgent. The competition was short-listed in December 1982 to M/s Sofma of France, M/s A.B. Bofors of Sweden, M/s International Military Services of the United Kingdom, and M/s Voest Alpine of Austria. In November 1985, the Government of India's choice, based on advice from the Army Headquarters and a recommendation by the Negotiating Committee, narrowed down to Sofma and Bofors.

The official record also shows that between October 1982 and February 1986, the Indian Army did no fewer than seven evaluations of the relative merits of the howitzer systems offered by the bidders. In the first six, the Sofma 155 mm TR howitzer was clearly preferred to the Bofors gun. Financial considerations also gave the French manufacturer what looked like an unbeatable lead. However, it is now clear, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and a small coterie that knew his thinking had made up their minds from the start to award the contract to the Swedish arms manufacturer and to no one else. Since they knew no way to make Army Headquarters budge from its preference for the French gun, they patiently waited it out, notwithstanding the supposed urgency of the Army's strategic requirements. When General A.S. Vaidya's retirement neared and even before General K. Sundarji formally took over as Army chief, they moved swiftly to clinch the decision for Bofors. With Army Headquarters reversing in February 1986 a succession of earlier professional judgments that had gone against Bofors, the stages of final decision-making were telescoped and rushed through, resulting in the formalisation of the choice of Bofors on March 24, 1986. The CBI charge-sheet reveals, among other things, that after the Negotiating Committee recommended, on March 12, the issuance of a Letter of Intent to Bofors, the file was approved by five officials and three Ministers on March 13 and finally approved by Rajiv Gandhi on March 14.

The decision-making mode must now be related to the payments mode. The documents published by The Hindu established beyond the shadow of a doubt that secret payoffs totalling $50 million were made by Bofors to three or more recipient arrangements and that these payments, far from representing any "winding up costs", were percentage payments tied to specified supplies against the total order and to realisation of the payments by the Government of India. The media expose of the payoffs and some of the recipients appears to have had the beneficial effect of cutting off the payments. This by itself is significant. If the payments had been legitimate or legal, Bofors surely would not have had any difficulty in completing them as per the contracted 'entitlements'. However, Bofors' saving on the payoffs did not result in any lowering of the price of the howitzers for India.

BUT that is not all we now know about the payments mode. The CBI's investigation has nailed down the recipients of the bulk of the Bofors payments, and once the final set of bank documents reaches the CBI the Hinduja involvement as recipients of the Bofors payoffs will also be nailed down. We also know a good deal about the modus operandi employed, in an environment of secrecy, to protect the end-recipients. The very fact that the Swiss authorities and courts have, after looking into the requested bank documents, allowed the bulk of them to reach official Indian hands means that they are reasonably satisfied that bribes to Indian public servants are involved.

Cover-up of corruption in high places may be a natural response where the rule of law is not guaranteed in relation to the high and mighty; but what is understandable does not become legitimate under cover of realpolitik. This is what the Rajiv Gandhi dispensation and the Congress(I) learnt to their cost.

The line of dismissing the documented media allegations as "false, baseless and mischievous"; the repeated assertion that Bofors made no payments to "middlemen", to "agents", to "Indians", to Rajiv Gandhi or to anyone associated with his family; the soft approach, suggesting collusion, to the Hindujas, Chadha, Quattrocchi et al; getting the "Gandhi Truste(e) lawyer" to talk to Bob Wilson of A.E. Services Ltd at a time the Rajiv Gandhi dispensation had supposedly no knowledge of the existence of Bob Wilson or A.E. Services Ltd; Defence Secretary Bhatnagar's criminally culpable failure to act in the interest of the Indian Government and to avoid causing it wrongful loss and his attempt to shield Bofors from any sanction or pressure after the fact of illegal payoffs became known; fierce resistance from Rajiv Gandhi to any suggestion that the threat to cancel the contract should be used against Bofors to gain the full truth about the payments - all these are integral parts of the cover-up and crisis management mode.

CONSIDER the implications of the following pieces of the action detailed in the charge-sheet.

In April 1987, as soon as the Swedish media broadcast allegations about Bofors paying bribes to Indians, the Indian Ambassador to Sweden, B.M. Oza, pursued a no-nonsense line of pressing the Swedish government to investigate seriously into the allegations (rather than accepting Bofors denials at face value). But he learnt soon enough that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not want the truth to be revealed. The CBI's investigation has revealed that after receiving Bofors' letter of denial, dated April 24, 1987, as well as the views of Ambassador Oza, Rajiv Gandhi spoke to Swedish Prime Minister Carlsson and told him that in view of Bofors' letter of denial, there was no need for any further investigation of the allegations. This high-level message was, in fact, "just the contrary" of "what the Government of India had requested through official channels" and, not surprisingly, Ambassador Oza was "kept in the dark" about this development.

When, in consequence of Rajiv Gandhi's request to Carlsson, the Swedish government reversed its stand on an official investigation and announced that there would be no investigation, Ambassador Oza stubbornly persisted with his original demand - until Prime Minister Carlsson informed him about what Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi actually wanted. The upshot was that Rajiv Gandhi was obliged to reverse his stand and send a letter, dated April 28, 1987, to Carlsson stating that "though facts furnished by Bofors tend to confirm the position that there were no middlemen, clarifications are necessary to set the controversy at rest" and that "in this context, the enquiry promised by the Swedish Government is of great importance". The consequence of Ambassador Oza's refusal to let the truth be buried was the enquiry by the Swedish National Audit Bureau that was to cause so much distress and trouble to Rajiv Gandhi and the recipients of the Bofors payoffs.

In June-July 1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asked the Ministry of Defence for an evaluation of the cost to, and effect on, national security of the cancellation of the Bofors contract. Asked for his views on the subject, General Sundarji wrote a note, dated June 13, 1987, stating that obtaining complete information about the moneys paid by Bofors in connection with the contract was very essential and that, if Bofors did not part with the required information, "we should go to the extent of threatening to cancel our contracts." He recommended that the Army could take a calculated risk: "in the interest of vindicating National Honour we apply full pressure on Bofors to part with the information needed for legal action against the culprits and accept the risk that this might in the worst case lead to a cancellation of the contract." Bhatnagar received General Sundarji's recommendation on June 13, 1987 and kept it to himself. A week later, he personally returned the note to the Army Chief, requesting him to change his recommendation regarding the cancellation of the contract. Sundarji refused to do so and reiterated his views in a note dated July 15, 1987. This document was also withheld from the man who was directly handling the matter, Minister of State in the Defence Ministry, Arun Singh.

Minister of State Arun Singh wrote a reasoned minute dated June 10, 1987, which was approved and endorsed by Defence Minister K.C. Pant. The minute argued that "we as GOI must pursue this matter to a logical conclusion." It specifically recommended that the Indian Ambassador in Sweden should be instructed to "inform both the Swedish Govt., and the company that unless they give us the information we want, we will have no alternative but to cancel the contract for the FH 77B 155 mm Howitzers."

Arun Singh's minute concluded: "I am fully cognisant of the fact that this cancellation will have some negative impact on our defence preparedness but you may like to reconfirm with COAS (Chief of Army Staff) whether we can live with that. In my view we must be prepared to go to this extent of cancellation because our very credibility as a Govt. is at stake and what is worse, the credibility of the entire process of defence acquisitions is also at stake. I would be most grateful if this note and the draft letters could be forwarded by you to the Prime Minister after you have seen them."

And what was Rajiv Gandhi's response to this reasoned suggestion endorsed by Defence Minister Pant? In a minute ostensibly dated June 15, 1987 (which appears to have been recorded later and antedated to cover up the Prime Minister's embarrassment over Arun Singh's resignation over the Bofors affair on July 18, 1987), he lashed out against his ex-friend:

A telex message (TX 5425) of 1981 from Hans Ekblom, Vice-President, Marketing, A.B. Bofors, for the attention of "Mr. Marshi". It deals with "ten per cent of the total contract value(s) as the 'remuneration' to be paid to the Pitco account." The references are to Bofors' attempt to sell various items of military hardware to India.-

"It is unfortunate that MOS/AS has put his personal prestige above the security of the nation before even evaluating all aspects. I appreciate his feelings as he had been dealing with Def. almost completely on his own with my full support but that is not adequate reason to be ready to compromise the security of the nation. Has he evaluated the actual position vis-a-vis security? Has he evaluated the financial loss of a cancellation? Has he evaluated the degree of breach of contract by Bofors if any? Has he evaluated the consequences for all future defence purchases if we cancel a contract unilaterally? Has he evaluated how rival manufacturers will behave in the future? Has he evaluated how GOI prestige will plummet if we unilaterally cancel a contract that has not been violated? To the best of my belief the Swedish Audit report upholds GOI position and does not contradict it. What we need to do is to get to the roots and find out what precisely has been happening and who all are involved. Kneejerk reactions and stomach cramps will not serve any purpose. RRM has run the Ministry fairly well but there is no need to panic, specially if one's conscience is clear."

This minute is signed by Rajiv Gandhi. Can anyone reading this reaction of fury, along with the documented facts and circumstances of the Bofors case, arrive at a conclusion that this Prime Minister's conscience was clear?

But this is not all. Following an Arun Singh-guided effort in the Ministry of Defence to press Bofors to reveal the truth on pain of losing the contract, the Swedish side decided that Anders Carlberg, chairman of the Nobel group of industries, and two others would come to India on July 6, 1987 to reveal the truth confidentially to the Government of India. Meanwhile, Attorney-General Parasaran, whose advice had been sought, opined that Bofors had clearly breached the contract; this expert legal advice reached the Ministry of Defence on July 4, 1987. And what did Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi do? He intervened officially to stop the Bofors team from coming to India with its dangerous information.

The crux of the case pressed in the CBI's charge-sheet is that public servants headed by Rajiv Gandhi, aided and abetted by various private individuals, were involved in a criminal conspiracy to cause "wrongful gain" to Bofors, Quattrocchi and Chadha and "corresponding loss" to the Government of India.

The criminal conspiracy involved several other offences. Covering up corruption is an extension of corruption and also amounts to obstructing justice. The chief players in the cover-up and crisis management that failed were Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, two Congress(I) governments, the Swedish Social-Democrat government, Bofors, Defence Secretary Bhatnagar, the Hindujas, Quattrocchi and Chadha.

In an entry for July 2, 1987, Martin Ardbo, the managing director of Bofors, records that the two directors of "AE Services" have met the "Gandhi Trust(e) lawyer" in Geneva. This diary entry was simultaneously reproduced in several newspapers, including The Hindu, Indian Express and The Statesman, on October 31, 1989.-

The Hindu, Indian Express The Statesman

The cover-up of the truth behind Bofors continued long after the death of Rajiv Gandhi. This unstated Congress(I) policy was reflected, in the post-Rajiv period, in the motivated internal decision to transfer K. Madhavan, the upright and independent CBI officer, from the case (October 1991); the transfer of Joint Director M.D. Sharma (February 1992); and various obstructive tactics and collusive proceedings that culminated in External Affairs Minister Madhavsinh Solanki's hard-to-believe act of malfeasance and political stupidity in Switzerland.

The main players in the investigation and expose of the Bofors corruption scandal have been Dagens Eko (the news service of Swedish Public Radio), sections of the Indian press, the Swedish police, the CBI when it has been allowed to do its job by its political masters, and the Swiss authorities. The leading contribution made by journalistic investigation to this case must be understood as a response to the challenge, an extraordinary attempt at cover-up and obstruction of justice. Had there been no cover-up of this kind, making a mockery of the rule of law and also professions of public morality in India as well as in Sweden, the role of the media in the investigation would have been far less important. L'affaire Bofors is an example of an issue where the relatively independent press, under the press of circumstances, performs better than most other institutions in society. The CBI, under independent professional leadership, has demonstrated in the recent past that it can do as well as any criminal investigation agency anywhere in the world.

BOFORS is independent India's most important corruption scandal. It might have had its ups and downs, its ebb and flow, in the public mind. But unlike previous corruption scandals, it has refused to go away as a national issue because the political, moral and systemic issues it raises are both deep-seated and dramatic. The distinction of Bofors has been to serve over more than a decade as a continuous symbol and metaphor for political corruption at the top. It has served to raise public consciousness against corruption in a way previous scandals put together failed to do. It has also helped us gain a larger and more reliable perspective about how various institutions perform in relation to corruption. It is important for the health of the Indian political system to ensure that the lawful attempt to uncover the full truth and make an example of the corrupt succeeds.

See the article, "More sting than scam," by Mani Shankar Aiyar in The Indian Express, New Delhi, November 2, 1999, page 8. The ludicrousness of the falsehoods presented in this article extends to asserting that "the relevant extracts" from the Ardbo diary (the explosive references to "Q", "Gandhi trust", "Nero", "N", and "R") "were scooped by this newspaper." The record shows that the first excerpts from the Ardbo diary and handwritten notes were published (as part of a detailed analytical expose by Chitra Subramaniam and N. Ram) over three pages of The Hindu of November 25, 1988; and that further explosive excerpts, including the famous July 2, 1987 reference to the "Gandhi Truste(e) lawyer", were published simultaneously in several leading Indian newspapers, including The Hindu, Indian Express and The Statesman, on October 31, 1989 under the same bylines. I happened to make these "relevant extracts" available to a representative section of the Indian press, and subsequently, after a criminal case was filed in early 1990 on Bofors, handed over photocopies of the Ardbo diary pages and handwritten notes to the CBI, as required by law.

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