Bofors corruption case returns to haunt India’s ruling party

NEW DELHI, January 4, 2011 (AFP) – One of India’s biggest corruption cases that tarnished late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s returned to haunt the ruling party on Tuesday amid new charges of kickbacks and graft. The weekly current affairs magazine India Today said in its New Year issue that “the size and frequency of corruption in 2010 made it the theme of the year.” India’s Income Tax department concluded Monday that illegal commissions of 410 million rupees (nine million dollars) were paid to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi and an Indian arms dealer, Win Chadha, in the 1986 Bofors gun deal.

Last year, Indian police dropped long-standing charges against Quattrocchi, which led to claims from the opposition that the ruling Congress party was trying to bury the embarrassing episode.

Quattrocchi, thought to still live in Milan, was a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian wife Sonia. She today heads the Congress, which is again embroiled in a host of corruption scandals.

Her husband was voted out of office in 1989 largely over the Bofors deal, which saw Swedish firm AB Bofors sell 400 howitzer guns to India. He was later assassinated in 1991 by ethnic Tamil extremists.

The Swe