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DATE=10/22/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDIA/BOFORS SCANDAL (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-255367 BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Indian investigators have filed the first criminal charges in a corruption-and-bribery scandal involving an arms purchase deal that shook India's political establishment more than a decade ago. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has been named among the suspects. From New Delhi, Anjana Pasricha reports. TEXT: The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged a senior Indian civil servant, [S.K Bhatnagar], an Indian arms agent [Win Chadha] and an Italian businessman [Ottavio Quattrocchi] with accepting bribes from the Swedish arms company Bofors, which signed a contract to sell artillery guns to India in 1986. A Swedish executive [Martin Ardbo] who headed the Bofors company at that time is also being prosecuted in the kickback scandal. Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister who was assassinated eight years ago, also is named in the charges. The scandal erupted in 1987 when Swedish radio reported the Bofors firm had paid more than 50-million dollars in bribes to secure a contract for a one- point-four-billion-dollar sale of field guns to the Indian army, against stiff international competition. The bribes were paid into secret Swiss bank accounts. Indian authorities obtained documents relating to the accounts after a seven-year legal battle with Swiss authorities. The scandal created a political uproar in India, and Bofors became a symbol of political corruption. It tarnished the image of Rajiv Gandhi, leading to his party's defeat in the 1989 general elections, two years before his assassination. Investigations into the Bofors case have been slow, and the center of much political controversy. Governments led or supported by the Congress Party have been accused of trying to bury the case. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's government speeded up investigations into the case. The case could become a fresh political liability for Italian-born opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi's widow. Not only was her late husband named in the charges, but the Italian businessman accused of bribery is also a close friend of the Gandhi family. He left India soon after the scandal erupted. Indian media have speculated that Mrs. Gandhi entered politics to block prosecutors in the Bofors case. The Congress party is refusing to comment on the charges. Party spokesman Kapil Sibal calls them the result of a "13-year-long legal and political joke." (Signed) NEB/AP/WTW 22-Oct-1999 11:54 AM EDT (22-Oct-1999 1554 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .