NEW DELHI — President Pranab Mukherjee has raked up one of India's longest-running controversies from the 80s, the alleged kickbacks paid for the supply of Howitzer guns to the Indian army by Swedish gun manufacturer Bofors, during an interview. Mukherjee refused to call the Bofors deal a "scandal" and said no court in India has given a verdict on it.
In an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyhetter at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, ahead of his state visit to Sweden, Mukherjee said "first of all, it is yet to be established that there was a scandal," according to several media reports.
I don't comment on President's statements.If u ask me about quality of Bofors guns, will say its good: Manohar Parikar pic.twitter.com/S0itawPClq— ANI (@ANI_news) May 26, 2015
"No Indian court has established it. I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, Indian army is using it. The so-called scandal which you talk of, yes, in the media, it was there. There was a media trial. But I'm afraid, let us not be too much carried by publicity," Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Times Of India.
But when Mukherjee was asked if the Bofors scandal was played out in the media, he backtracked and said "I do not know. I'm not describing it, you're putting that word. Don't put that word. What I am saying is that in media it was publicised."
Calm down. U really want man in @RashtrapatiBhvn call Bofors a scandal to Swedish press as he goes there? Pranab is a most correct President— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) May 26, 2015
Graft charges led to the collapse of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government in 1989 over the $285 million contract between India and the Swedish arms dealer. Subsequently the government banned middlemen in all defence deals.
But that ruling too was reversed when in 2014 the NDA government brought in a new policy legalizing middlemen in arms purchases.
Congress backs President's statement on Bofors, says it's an attempt to malign their image— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) May 26, 2015
A court cleared Gandhi's name in 2004, 13 years after his death, but the scandal continued to plague the Congress party.
The CBI never succeeded in extraditing Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the main suspect named in the tax order who was a friend of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi. He died last year.
(With inputs from Reuters)