French journal makes fresh claims of kickbacks in Rafale deal

New Delhi: French investigative journal Mediapart has made fresh claims that alleged bogus invoices were used that enabled French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help it secure the Rafale deal with India.

According to Mediapart’s investigation, Dassault Aviation paid the kickbacks to the intermediary in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012.

Mediapart had reported in July that a French judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial investigation into suspected corruption” and favouritism in the Rs 59,000-crore inter-governmental deal with India for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

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There was no reaction yet from the defence ministry or Dassault Aviation on the latest report.

“Mediapart is today publishing the alleged ‘false’ invoices that enabled French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help secure the sale of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft to India,” the journal said in its new report on Sunday.

It alleged that despite the existence of “these documents”, the Indian probe agencies decided not to pursue the matter.

“It involves offshore companies, dubious contracts and false invoices. Mediapart can reveal that detectives from India’s federal police force, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and colleagues from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights money laundering, have had proof since October 2018 that French aviation firm Dassault paid at least 7.5 million euros (equivalent to just under Rs 650 million) in secret commissions to middleman Sushen Gupta,” Mediapart claimed in the report.

“This was in the context of the French firm’s long and ultimately successful attempt to secure a 7.8 billion-euro-deal in 2016 to sell 36 of its Rafale fighters to India,” it said.

BJP’s National Information and Technology Department in-charge Amit Malviya targeted the Congress, alleging that the kickbacks were paid during the UPA rule.

“Dassault paid Euro 14.6 Mn to intermediary Sushen Gupta over the period 2004-2013 to sell Rafale. So UPA was collecting kickbacks but couldn’t close the deal? NDA later scrapped it and got into a contract with the French Govt, which upset Rahul Gandhi no end,” tweeted Malviya.

The NDA government had inked the deal on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.

The Congress accused the government of massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that it was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government during the negotiations for the MMRCA.

Prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Congress raised several questions about the deal and alleged corruption, but the government rejected all the charges.

Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation and India’s defence ministry have previously trashed allegations of any corruption in the contract.

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