NEW DELHI, India, April 18, Reuter: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is expected to face a fierce opposition attack in Parliament on Monday over reports of a payoff to his party members from a Swedish arms manufacturer.
Gandhi’s government quickly denied Swedish radio and television reports accusing unnamed senior members of his Congress (1) Party and defense officials with accepting bribes from Sweden’s Bofors firm to finalize an arms deal.
Madhu Dandavate, a leader of the Opposition Janata Party, told Reuters the issue would be raised in Parliament when it resumed on Monday after a three-day Easter holiday.
“It’s (the Bofors controversy) echoes are bound to be heard in Parliament”, Dandavate, a former railways minister said.
Politicians have traded charges in Parliament in the past week over controversies which erupted over the hiring of a private U.S. Economic Intelligence Agency, Fairfax, to investigate funds held abroad illegally by Indians.
Opposition leaders demanded an explanation from Vishwanath Pratap Singh for hiring Fairfax when he was Defense Minister, a post he quit last Sunday after his own party members denounced him for publicizing an inquiry ordered into a defense deal.
Opposition leader P. Upendra yesterday accused Gandhi’s Party Of preventing Singh from giving details of a departmental inquiry he had ordered into allegations of a 23milliondollar kickback for an unspecified defense deal.
Upendra said: “The skeletons in Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s cupboards are coming out one by one in quick succession. The credibility of the government is at its lowest ebb.”
Gandhi briefed his Cabinet for three hours yesterday on the Bofors issue, the probe Singh ordered. and the hiring of Fairfax, the respected Times of India said.
The Prime Minister was expected to make a statement on the issues in Parliament on Monday, the newspaper said.
The government issued a statement after the meeting saying: “The government categorically denies the allegations contained in news stories based on reports broadcasted by Swedish radio and television in connection with an arms order placed on the Swedish firm, Bofors.
The news item is false. baseless, and mischievous.
Bofors Chief spokesman, per Mossberg, has also described the charge as baseless but refused yesterday to give details of the 1.3 billion dollars contract the company secured last year to supply India with a complete artillery system.
Swedish radio, however, maintained in a broadcast the same day that Bofors had paid out 32 million crowns (five million dollars) to Indian contacts through secret Swiss accounts.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 24, 1987