Published On : Tue, May 26th, 2015

President says Bofors scam charges ‘yet to be proved’ in court

NewDelhi/Nagpur: President Pranab Mukherjee has said the Bofors arms scandal of the 1980s was more of a “media trial” than an actual one as none of the charges have been proved in any Indian court.Mukherjee, a former defence minister, made the remarks during an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter newspaper ahead of an official visit to the country next week.

“The first point is that no Indian court has given a verdict on it,” said the President, adding that though the trial was ongoing, with a legal verdict the case could not be described as a scandal.

Responding to a question about whether a scandal such as Bofors could be avoided in the future, the former finance minister stated that we “should not be carried away by publicity,” referring to the press coverage in the 1980s as a “media trial.”

Relations between Sweden and India were seriously damaged when allegations surfaced that Swedish arms manufacturing company Bofors had paid $640 million as kickbacks to secure a $1.3 billion contract to sell 410 howitzers to the Indian Army.

The scandal contributed to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s defeat in the 1989 parliamentary polls. Mukherjee, a senior leader of the Congress, was a close confidante of Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991 by the LTTE.

Mukherjee, who became defence minister after the scam emerged, stated that the Bofors howitzers continued to be prized by the Indian Army; ‘all of my generals confirmed that this is one of the best guns we have. Till today, the Indian Army is using it.’

The Bofors howitzers played a key role in the campaign to push back Pakistani troops who occupied strategic heights in the Kargil sector of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999.