Re: Forbes on the Gandhi/Bofors scandal

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 30 Jul 1997 15:35:52 -0400

[the other shoe dropped only a little later: official India undercut
clean-hands Joginder Singh. Still, ya gotta have faith in a judiciary that
still considering how to settle the 1984 Bhopal disaster... it hasn't even
gone to the Supreme Court yet]

[And, no, Forbes isn't the responsible party: there was speculation
immediately after the chargesheet was filed that this was imminent. And the
new post is "freedom fighters' pension administration" -- India officially
recognizes a long list of elder revolutionaries with free rail passes,
subsidies, etc.]


Did Forbes help get India's honest top cop fired? Unfortunately, it would
seem that way.=20
Corruption fights back=20

By Pranay Gupte and Rahul Singh=20
JOGINDER SINGH, India's top cop, fresh from a meeting with Interpol
officials in France, landed at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International
Airport at 4 o'clock in the morning of Tuesday, July 1. As the chief of the
Central Bureau of Investigation deplaned from his Air India flight, he was
besieged by journalists. What did he have to say about being fired by Prime
Minister Inder Kumar Gujral?=20
Fired? It was news to Singh. "I had no inkling that this would happen,"
Singh later told Forbes of his abrupt dismissal.=20

Was it a coincidence that the firing came less than a week after a Forbes
article (July 7) about the Bofors arms scandal in India? Reprinted in full
in the Indian Express, the story reported that Singh's department had
implicated assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a $1.3 billion arms
scandal. If the timing of the dismissal was a coincidence, it was a
remarkable one, and a setback for India's fight against corruption. A
disgusted Indian public has been demanding action against the
money-grubbing pols who have been looting the Indian economy and putting a
drag on economic development. One ex-prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao,
has been indicted, and other Indian politicians are shaking in their=

The subject of the Forbes article was that Singh's department had recently
named five men and women on charges of receiving $40 million in payments.
Rajiv Gandhi was named as an unindicted coconspirator. The bribes came from
Bofors, a large Swedish armsmaker. =A0
=A0 Singh, who had been interviewed by Forbes for the article, told us
after his firing: "I thought that I was doing my job by the book. I have
spent 36 years in government service, and I have always conducted my
investigations on the basis of evidence. I do not engage in witch-hunts. I
don't do favors for politicians or anyone else. I had no indication that my
job would be taken away from me."=20
The firing wasn't represented as such. Singh was handed the relatively
unimportant job of handling pension payments in India's Home Ministry.
Prime Minister Gujral was reported to have said Singh was being removed
from his sensitive police post for "incompetence."=20

But the real meaning was clear from Gujral's choice of successor to the
incorruptible Singh. He is Ramesh Chandra Sharma, who headed the Bofors
inquiry for five years starting in 1991 without coming up with much of
anything. =A0

=A0 Singh's firing came just weeks before CBI investigators were scheduled
to question Rajiv Gandhi's Italian-born widow, Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi,
an informed source tells Forbes. It also came in the middle of another
politically sensitive probe of the flagrant corruption that has cursed
Indian democracy for decades. Singh had reportedly been about to arrest a
key Gujral ally, a regional politician named Laloo Prasad Yadav. Singh's
successor was quick to announce that arresting politicians is not a good
Was the Gujral government trying to please Sonia Gandhi? "It's extremely
difficult to avoid such a conclusion until the government clarifies the
situation fully," says Jaswant Singh, a leading member of parliament and a
former finance minister.=20

Indian politics have become a circus lately, in which Rajiv's widow is
playing a starring role. She controls the Congress Party=97the shoddy heir t=
the heroes who won India's independence, the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and
Jawaharlal Nehru. Congress has been thoroughly beaten in recent elections
but clings to power by giving its block of parliamentary votes to a
minority government, in which it does not participate but dominates. Prime
Minister Gujral, himself untainted by corruption, serves only at the
pleasure of the Congress bosses.=20

Under prodding by Joginder Singh and others, the Swiss government earlier
this year sent to India 52 cartons of Swiss bank documents apparently
containing clues to the whereabouts of the Bofors bribe money. Thus was the
heat rising on those involved, including the London-based Hinduja brothers,
members of a very wealthy Indian business family with U.S. connections. =A0
=A0 Singh or no Singh, the scandal won't die. B.M. Oza, who was India's
ambassador to Sweden when the arms deal was made, says: "I had no doubt in
my mind that the commissions [paid by Bofors to Ottavio Quattrocchi] were
actually the bribe money for Rajiv Gandhi." Oza, who has just written a
book on the scandal, says that Quattrocchi, an Italian who now lives in
Kuala Lumpur, played the role of middleman. Says Oza: "[Quattrocchi] got
the deal swung in favor of Bofors, and in record time. He could not have
done this without Rajiv Gandhi's support." Oza also told Forbes that the
Bofors commissions were "much larger" than the $40 million. "These payments
were in direct violation of the understanding given to India by [then
Swedish prime minister] Olof Palme himself,"Oza said. "Bofors told me that
there were no commissions, but it is clear to me that these were large
Bofors was reportedly blacklisted in India, but it has now been revealed in
the Swedish media that Bofors apparently continued to sell rifle components
to India through a middleman.=20

How much longer can Indian politicians keep the lid on this and other
outrageous scandals? Joginder Singh, rendered powerless but not silent, is

"India," the former CBI chief says, "has a strong judiciary and a strong
media. We also have a strong parliament. I honestly believe that there is
no chance that anything is going to stay buried for long."=20

Rohit Khare /// MCI Internet Architecture (BOS) ///
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