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Malaysian court says no to Quattrocchi extradition, CBI to appeal

Vandana Saxena (Press Trust of India)

Posted: Dec 13, 2002 at 1041 hrs IST

Delivering a stunning blow to India, a Malaysian High Court on Friday rejected its plea for extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi to stand trial in Bofors payoff case, observing that the offences alleged against him were "open to doubt."

Dismissing India's review petition for his extradition, Justice Augustine Paul of Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the Sessions Court verdict earlier this month throwing out the extradition case on the ground that the descriptions of the offenses in the requisition papers were "insufficient, vague and ambiguous." While discharging Quattrocchi unconditionally, the Sessions Court on December 2 had also ordered return of his passport and the bail.

India, through the Attorney General of Malaysia, went to the High Court challenging the Sessions Court verdict.

Justice Paul, in his order observed that charges against Quattrocchi should have been laid against the Sessions Court when it was hearing the extradition petition.

"It is my view that the failure to supply the (Sessions) Court and the respondent with the charges is fatal. Therefore I upheld the Sessions Court verdict and discharge this application," he told a packed court room where Quattrocchi was also present.

"The offences alleged are open to doubt," he said, adding "it will not serve its purpose if a party is left guessing ... from pages and pages of documents that have been supplied." Quattrocchi later said, "I always had full faith in Malaysian judiciary. I have done nothing wrong. I have nothing to fear.

The judge ruled that the disclosure of the charges should have been made at the Sessions Court itself.

Attorney General of Malaysia is appealing in the Court of Appeal against the High Court's ruling.

"We will be appealing against the High Court's ruling and also will ask for stay order on the ruling."

The CBI, meanwhile, said that it would appeal against the Malaysian High Court order rejecting extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, one of the main accussed in the Rs 64 crore Bofors payoff case.

Maintaining that India was not given a "fair chance" to make its point of view in the Malaysian High Court, CBI on Friday said it would surely file an appeal against the judgement rejecting extradition of Italian businessman Otavio Quattrocchi to stand trial in the Bofors case.

Addressing a press conference hours after the Malaysian court gave the ruling, CBI director P C Sharma termed as "distressing" the verdict despite all its efforts and placing of facts before the court.

The CBI will pursue the request aggressively and with full strength, he said, adding an appeal would be filed against the court's verdict.

Referring to the court's observations about its inability to extradite Quattrocchi in view of the failure of the prosecution to supply the court with the charges against him, Sharma said there were procedures in India under which charges could be framed and chargesheet filed against an accused only in his presence.

That was why CBI had been seeking his presence to stand trial in India, he said.

Asserting that CBI had full respect for the Judicial process in Malaysia, he said "it is natural for a judicial proceeding that both sides are heard. But we were not given a chance to present our view".

To a question, he said he was surprised over the development because the legal system and criminal laws in both the countries were not vastly different.

The CBI Chief said the agency had "limitations" in fighting the case "because our request is to a foreign country and a Malaysian lawyer, instead of an Indian advocate, is fighting the case on our behalfā€¯.

"We have to put our point of view through the Malaysian authorities," he said.

To a question, Sharma disagreed that the CBI had failed to get hold of Indian fugitives and asserted "the arm of law is reaching the criminals wherever they are.ā€¯

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