France orders a highly sensitive judicial probe into Rafale deal with India in 2016 leading to rousing demands from Congress for a JPC.
The investigation has been initiated by the national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) to look into the sale of 36 Dassault-built Rafale fighter aircraft to India involving over 7.8-billion-euros.
The Congress party is seeking a joint parliamentary committee investigation after a French news website published that a French judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial probe into alleged “corruption and favoritism” in the ₹ 59,000-crore deal with India.
The Congress stressed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should order the investigation, but it is apparent that the BJP Central government is in denial of the alleged scam, which many people claim is the “biggest scam in the history of India,” asserting it is far bigger than Bofors.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Delhi on Saturday. “Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government ordered a probe.” Surjewala said.
France’s National Financial Prosecutors’ Office on Friday said it will look into alleged corruption in the sale of Rafale jets to India. Notably, this French judicial institution was created in December 2013 to track down serious economic and financial crimes.
Mr. Surjewala from Congress reiterated, “When the French government has accepted that there is corruption in the deal, should a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) probe be not held in the country where the corruption took place?”
The BJP responded to the Congress’charges over the Rafale deal as “lies”. “The way Rahul Gandhi is behaving, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he is being used as a pawn by competing companies. He has been lying right from the beginning on the issue. Probably, he is acting as an agent or some member of Gandhi’s family has been for a competing company,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters on Saturday.
Mr. Patra of the BJP cited a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a Supreme Court verdict, both of which had found nothing wrong in the defense deal between India and France, to reject allegations of the Congress.
France’s Dassault Aviation had initially won a contract in 2012 to supply 126 jets to India and had been negotiating with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This was done under Congress’s rule. Later, when Prime Minister Modi won the elections and took over as Prime Minister, HAL was replaced by Reliance Group, and a new contract for 36 jets was finalized. The announcement to buy the 36 jets was made in an India-France joint statement when PM Modi visited France in April 2015.
The Controversies in the Deal
HAL Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is an Indian state-owned aerospace and defense company with 79 years of experience, one of the oldest and biggest aerospace and defense manufacturers in the world today was removed and the contract was given to Reliance who never made a paper plane. HAL has been jolted spiraling downwards, while Reliance and the Central Government, allegedly will benefit.
A Middleman Paid in Secret Commission: Since it is a national deal and agreement between two nations, there should not be a middleman. The “middleman” Sushen Gupta got several million euros in “secret commissions” in connection with the ₹59,000 crore deal for 36 jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
126 Jets Replaced with Only 36 and Still Paying More: The Congress government’s original deal was to get 126 jets, with the first 18 made by France and the rest by Indian HAL, which would benefit Indians all around. The Prime Minister of India scrapped this deal and in his new arrangement would get only 36 fighter jets, but still is to pay more.
‘Funds gifted to Reliance by Dassault’The intergovernmental agreement concluding the sale of 36 Rafales was signed on September 20. Two months later, on November 28, 2016, Dassault and Reliance signed a “shareholders’ agreement” which set out their relationship with the future joint venture company.
But, says Mediapart, the financial details of this were so sensitive that they did not figure in the contract, and instead were contained in a confidential “side letter” which was signed that same day:
“It is that “side letter” that contained the funds gifted to Reliance by Dassault. “The two partners agreed to a maximum investment in the subsidiary of 169 million euros. Of that sum, Dassault, which held a 49% stake in DRAL, pledged to provide up to 159 million euros, representing 94% of the total, while Reliance would provide just the remaining 10 million euros. “This meant that Reliance was given the majority 51% stake in the joint venture in return for a relatively very modest sum.
Thus now, a French judge has been appointed to lead a criminal investigation into alleged corruption in the 7.8 billion Euro Rafale Deal.