Union Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday asked the Congress to come clean on the claims made by a US investigator Michael Hershman, who has alleged in television interviews that the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation into the Bofors case.
"Indians across the nation and the world have asked for accountability in the Bofors scam. Revelations made by Hershman brings to the forefront a few questions which Congress needs to answer," Smriti Irani said at a press conference, referring to the claims made by Hershman.
She said that the questions raised by Hershman were not only for investigative agencies but also for the Congress party to come clean with.
"For too long, Congress conveniently kept quiet. It's time they answer what's the involvement of its leaders then and now in the Bofors case," she said.
Hershman was the secret investigator of the Fairfax Group deployed by the Finance Ministry under V.P. Singh to probe suspicious transactions of some industrialists in Swiss banks. During this investigation, he chanced to stumble upon a suspicious deposit that could be later linked to Bofors payoffs. He also alleged that a Pakistani citizen met Rajiv Gandhi with a briefcase.
"Rajiv Gandhi met a Pakistani citizen. Who was this Pakistani gentleman who met Rajiv Gandhi with a briefcase? Which official of the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International based in Pakistan) was he? What was in the briefcase?," Irani asked.
On the claim that Hershman received death threats and attempts to lure him, the Union Minister said: "It's a matter of investigation as to which individual attempted to bribe those individuals who were investigating the Bofors scam."
To a statement by Hershman that the Congress government tried to implicate V.P. Singh, the then Finance Minister, Irani said this was an attempt by the then Prime Minister in silencing Singh.
"Why would a Congress leader, the then Prime Minister of the country, choose to silence a Minister in his own government, was only because V.P. Singh was carrying out an investigation into the Bofors scam. This was to minimise the impact of the revelations made by Hershman," she said.
The Bofors deal was signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi-led government and the Swedish company Bofors in 1986. In the same year, in March, the deal for 410 Howitzer field guns was completed.
The alleged corruption in the Bofors gun deal had created a scandal in 1987 and was one of the major reason for the defeat of the Congress in 1989 elections.