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Thursday, October 25, 2001

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Win Chadha's death, a setback to Bofors case

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, OCT. 24. The death of the 77-year-old Dubai-based businessman, Mr. Win Chadha, key accused in the `Rs. 64 crore Bofors payoff case', early this morning is considered a setback to the trial as charges are yet to be framed in the case.

As the CBI has already split the case, only the three Hinduja brothers - Mr. Srichand, Mr. Gopichand and Mr. Prakashchand - figure in the main case. A few months ago the former Defence Secretary, Bhatnagar, another accused in the case, died.

A separate case has been filed against the Italian businessman, Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi, and the former president of AB Bofors, Mr. Martin Ardbo, as the CBI has not been able to secure them to face the trial. While Mr. Quattrocchi is facing extradition proceedings in Malaysia, indications are that Mr. Ardbo will not be extradited from Sweden.

Even as CBI sources maintained that Mr. Chadha's death will not affect the trial, legal experts feel that the death of most of the accused will be a setback to the progress of the trial and also weaken the thrust of the case, which relates to conspiracy and payment of commission in the gun deal.

As none of the accused who figure in the initial chargesheet is facing trial, proceeding further with the case will be futile, they say. The names of the Hinduja brothers, who were added only later, figure in the list of accused now.

Some others feel that after the death of two of the key accused, the CBI can now concentrate on the Hindujas and expedite the trial with the truncated chargesheet. It remains to be seen how the CBI and the court will proceed with the 12-year- old case.

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