NEW DELHI: The Bofors gun deal, signed between the Indian government and the now defunct Swedish arms company AB Bofors 21 years ago, has once again come to haunt the government and politics of this country.
Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman accused of being a conduit in the bribes that were alleged to have been paid to facilitate the deal, was detained in Argentina and then subsequently released on bail, much to the embarrassment of Indian investigators who have been on his trail.
Following is the chronology of events in the Bofors howitzer payoff scandal:
March 24, 1986: A $1.4 billion contract between the Indian government and Swedish arms company AB Bofors signed for supply of over 400 155mm howitzers.
April 16, 1987: Swedish Radio claims Bofors paid kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials to secure the deal.
April 20, 1987: Then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi assures the Lok Sabha that neither was any middleman involved in the deal nor were kickbacks paid.
August 6, 1987: Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) set up under B. Shankaranand to probe into allegations of kickbacks.
February 1988: Indian investigators visit Sweden.
July 18, 1989: JPC report presented to parliament.
November 1989: Rajiv Gandhi loses power as Congress defeated in general elections.
December 26, 1989: Then prime minister V.P. Singh's government bars Bofors from entering into any defence contract with India.
January 22, 1990: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registers complaint in the case.
January 26, 1990: Swiss authorities freeze bank accounts of Svenska and AE Services, who allegedly received unauthorised commissions for the deal.
February 17, 1992: Journalist Bo Anderson's sensational report on the Bofors payoffs case published.
December 1992: Supreme Court reverses a Delhi High Court decision quashing the complaint in the case.
February 9, 1993: Supreme Court rejects former Bofors agent Win Chadha's plea for quashing the letters rogatory sent by the trial court to its counterpart in Sweden seeking assistance in the case.
July 12, 1993: Swiss federal court rules that India was entitled to Swiss bank documents pertaining to the kickbacks.
July 29/30 1993: Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was representing Italian fertiliser firm Snam Progetti for several years, leaves India to avoid arrest warrant the CBI was seeking.
January 21, 1997: After four years of legal wrangles, secret documents running into over 500 pages given to Indian authorities at a public ceremony in Berne.
January 30, 1997: CBI constitutes special investigation team for the case.
February 10, 1997: CBI questions ex-army chief General Krishnaswamy Sundarji.
February 12, 1997: Letters rogatory issued to Malaysia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) seeking arrest of Quattrocchi and Win Chadha.
May 1998: Delhi High Court rejects Quattrocchi's plea for quashing of the 'red corner' notice issued by Interpol at the request of CBI.
October 22, 1999: CBI files first chargesheet naming Win Chadha, Quattrocchi, former Indian defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar, former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo and Bofors company. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's name figured as "an accused not sent for trial" as he was killed in 1991.
November 7, 1999: Trial court issues arrest warrants against Quattrocchi, while summoning other four accused.
December 13, 1999: CBI team goes to Malaysia to seek extradition of Quattrocchi; fails in its efforts.
Early 2000: Quattrocchi approaches the Supreme Court for quashing of arrest warrant against him. Court asks him to appear before CBI for interrogation while protecting him from being arrested. Quattrocchi refuses to accept the order, saying his counsel misled the court.
March 18, 2000: Chadha comes to India to face trial.
July 29, 2000: Trial court issues "open non-bailable arrest warrants" against Ardbo.
September 4, 2000: Chadha moves Supreme Court for permission to go to Dubai for treatment. Supreme Court rejects plea a week later.
September 29, 2000: Hindujas issue statement in London saying funds received by them from Bofors had no connection with the gun deal.
October 9, 2000: CBI files supplementary chargesheet naming Hinduja brothers as accused in the Bofors gun deal.
December 20, 2000: Quattrocchi arrested in Malaysia, gets bail but is asked to stay within the country.
August 6, 2001: Former defence secretary Bhatnagar dies of cancer.
October 24, 2001: Win Chadha dies of heart attack at his New Delhi residence.
November 15, 2002: Hinduja brothers formally charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption.
December 2, 2002: Malaysian court denies India's request for Quattrocchi's extradition.
July 28, 2003: Acting on India's request, Britain freezes Quattrocchi's bank accounts.
January 4, 2004: Swiss authorities agree to consider CBI's request for providing Quattrocchi's bank details.
February 4, 2004: Delhi High Court clears Rajiv Gandhi of involvement in the Bofors kickbacks scandal.
May 31, 2005: Delhi High Court clears Hindujas of involvement in the scandal.
Dec 31, 2005: The CBI tells Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), London, that it has not been able to link the money in two accounts of Quattrocchi with the Bofors kickbacks
Jan 7, 2006: Two accounts of Quattrocchi in London banks containing 3 million euros and $1 million were defreezed after then additional solicitor general B. Dutta met the CPS lawyers.
Feb 6, 2007: Quattrocchi detained at Iguazu international airport on an Interpol lookout notice.
Feb 13, 2007: CBI writes to Ministry of External Affairs for Argentinean Extradition Act and tells Interpol Buenos Aires that documentation being prepared for extradition proceedings.
Feb 24, 2007: Fresh warrant of arrest against Quattrocchi obtained from Delhi court
Feb 26, 2007: Quattrochhi released on bail with condition that he does not leave Argentina.
Feb 28, 2007: Two-member CBI team to leave for Argentina.