March 27, 2006

All Indian ministers in my pocket - Quottrochi

Ministers in Q pocket’

New Delhi, March 26: Controversial Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi and his wife Maria, who had direct access to the Prime Minister’s House when the late Rajiv Gandhi was in power, had also established a powerful network among top Congress leaders and ministers. This was revealed in statements made before the CBI by the drivers who used to work for the Quattrocchis. These statements, recorded by the CBI, went on to claim that the Italian businessman had often boasted that “all Indian ministers were in his pocket.”

The statements, attached as annexures, have been summoned by the Supreme Court from a trial court on the basis of a public interest litigation case moved by advocate Ajay K. Agrawal. It was through the Gandhis that Ottavio Quattrocchi reportedly gained access to the corridors of power in New Delhi, if the statements made by the personal staff of the Quattrocchi family are any indication. Mr Quattrocchi, one of the key accused in the Rs 64-crores Bofors payoffs case, had met then law minister H.R. Bharadwaj, former information and broadcasting minister Vasant Sathe, and powerful Congress leaders like Satish Sharma, R.K. Dhawan, Dinesh Singh and Arun Nehru.

Sasi Dharan, who drove Mr Quattrocchi’s car, told the CBI: “He (Quattrocchi) used to visit most of the Congress ministers.” He added: “I had also driven both Mr and Mrs Quattrocchi to the bungalows of various ministers. Vasant Sathe was living at 2, Krishna Menon Marg, Dinesh Singh at 1, Thyagraj Marg and K.P. Unnikrishnan at 19, Teen Murti Marg.” He also gives details of the houses of other key players in the government, where he had chauffeured Mr Quattrocchi.

Mr Quattrocchi’s other driver, Surendra Singh, had said: “Quattrocchi used to say that all Indian ministers were in his pocket.” He added: “Quattrocchi used to send gifts to ministers through me.” The drivers’ statements mentioned that at times, and particularly at nights, Mr Quattrocchi drove himself to the houses of ministers, often to deliver the gifts personally.

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