Former CBI director Joginder Singh is now cocooned in his home town of Jalalabad, kilometres away from the Indo-Pak border near Ferozepore, Punjab. Free of the pulls and pressures of Delhi, 'Tiger' Joginder is working overtime on a book which details the behind-the-scenes happenings of some controversial cases, including Bofors, he had to handle during his tenure as CBI chief. The names of the recipients of the Bofors kickbacks was officially revealed during Joginder Singh's tenure. The 250-page SIT report on the gun deal was also vetted and submitted by him to the government. Ajith Pillai caught up with Joginder Singh in Jalalabad. Excerpts:
Does Rajiv Gandhi's name figure in the SIT report? Various newspapers have hinted that he was involved in the cover-up?
I wouldn't like to comment on this. In any case I can't react to what is being reported in the press. All I can say is that there cannot be smoke without fire.
Does the CBI have evidence against any recipient of the Bofors payoff?
Well, the names we have are of Ottavio Quattrocchi and his wife. Win Chadha and members of his family.
Do you think that the SIT report should be made public?
I don't think the CBI should or will make it public. The SIT report is a document which we submitted to the ministry of personnel. It is now for the government to decide what to do with it. If they want to rubbish it, it is up to the government to do it. As far as the CBI is concerned, it has completed its report.
There is a view that if the report is made public it would go against the agreement arrived at with the Swiss authorities and that this may hamper the transfer of the second set of documents.
The agreement with Switzerland was that the documents they handed over to us would only be used for the purpose of investigation. It would certainly be improper to make those documents public. Also, the government cannot reveal what is in the SIT report. It cannot table it in Parliament. But if prosecution is launched against the guilty then the SIT report can be produced in a court of law. No understanding with the Swiss authorities would then be breached. After all, the documents were handed over to us so that the CBI could investigate and then prosecute those involved in the payoffs.
Do you think that there is enough evidence in the report to prosecute the guilty?
Yes. As far as the CBI is concerned, prosecution can be initiated. The case has been dragging on for years but it needs the go-ahead from the government. The CBI does not act on its own.
Is the second set of documents vital for completing the investigations?
It is because it has the names of other recipients. If all goes well, the papers should be coming any time now. In fact, it was on this very day, January 22, that I had put in the request for the second set of documents. Rudolph Weiss, chief of the Swiss Interpol, assured me that the Swiss government had set a deadline of one year for fulfilling our request. So unless there have been some other hurdles, the papers should be released soon.
Was there any pressure on you to go easy on Bofors?
In most high-profile cases there is bound to be pressure. It was not just Bofors. In the JMM case, in the fodder scam... they try to influence you. It's not just politicians who approach you. Friends, relatives and former colleagues also try to put pressure on you. But I refused to yield. That's why when Sukh Ram wanted to meet me I refused. Those in trouble always try to find a way out. But all these cases form part of the book I am currently writing.