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Sten Lindstrom is chief of the investigation division of the Swedish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). In 1987-88, as special prosecutor appointed by the Swedish government to probe alleged wrongdoing on the part of main collaborators in Sweden, Lindstrom personally headed the most wide-ranging probe into the Bofors payoffs. Within a few months of beginning the probe, Lindstrom realised he was not going to get any assistance from the Indian authorities and even some top officials of AB Bofors. Now head of the NBI, he has a deep understanding of all the crucial links in the Bofors story. Lindstrom has scrutinised hundreds of documents and papers and has interviewed all those concerned with the deal. Last month, he created a storm by saying that Sonia Gandhi should tell people all that she knows about Bofors. In a telephonic interview from Stockholm to Ranjit Bhushan, Lindstrom said Sonia cannot claim innocence in the face of findings conducted in the payoffs during the last decade or so. Excerpts:
You have been associated with the Bofors probe during the last decade. How has it progressed?
Well, investigations at the Swedish end are now closed. We have a law which does not permit investigation and prosecution beyond a period of three years. It’s a closed case for us, until something really new emerges in which we are required to assist.
What was the role played by the Gandhi family?
Until more details are available, it is difficult to say. But the Gandhis, particularly now Sonia, should explain how Quattrocchi-owned companies got such fat sums as payoffs from the Bofors deal. After all, what is the connection of Sonia and the Gandhi family to Quattrocchi? Who introduced Quattrocchi and his AE Services to Bofors? At least one thing is certainly known now. A part of the payoffs definitely went to Quattrocchi. That is now the legal position and, should governments show interest, a formal case can now be lodged.
What then is the key to the whole Bofors issue?
Clearly, the bank papers scheduled to arrive from Switzerland to India could hold the key. I think a great deal now depends upon what the next set of papers from Switzerland might say. The key to the Bofors deal perhaps lies in those papers. Just as the first set of papers proved the culpability of some close Gandhi family and friends, the second and final set could have new names and angles. Already there is a great deal of speculation about the appellants in the case.
The Indian authorities have so far been unable to make any headway with the Swiss since the first set of papers arrived early last year. Why?
Part of the reason perhaps is the fact that your investigators are not trying hard enough. I know it is difficult, because the kind of appellants blocking the transfer of papers to India are very big. They have a vested interest in seeing that the papers do not reach your country. I would think the best way out of it would be to put adequate pressure on the authorities there. At one level, I think more pressure needs to be applied if the Indian government is serious about getting to the bottom of the case.
What are the kind of papers you have in your possession? And do they throw any light on the recipients of the payoffs?
There is some circumstantial evidence. It is a long story. I cannot explain it away in a hurry. All I can say is that the papers all pointed to the Gandhi family. A good way of getting to the truth is if Sonia lays down her cards on the table.By the looks of it, it seems difficult that such a thing would happen.
There is a great of deal of excitement about Bofors in India and the issue is still capable of bringing down a government or two.
I know that. Bofors remains a hot potato in India. But someone will have to move fast if the truth is to be unearthed. All independent investigations on the issue—including some of the greatest media exposes—have come about. But the task of prosecuting, after the investigations are over, must surely lie with the government of the day.