Hyderabad: The Rafale deal has yet again hit headlines after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million Euros was paid to a “middleman” by the aircraft manufacturer.
On Sunday, French publication MediaPart shared a report revealing the existence of a middleman, payment of commission and concerns raised by the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA).
The report titled, “Sale of French Rafale jet fighters to India: how a state scandal was buried” stated that Dassault (the manufacturer of French fighter jet Rafael) paid one million Euros to a middleman in India following the India-France deal for 36 Rafaels was made.
Mediapart said that Dassault could neither provide documentary evidence of the models nor explain why the spending was listed as a “gift to clients” in their accounts.
Congress attacks central government over the report
Following this, the Congress party on Monday held a press conference over the findings of the report and demanded a statement from the Prime Minister.
Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the French news portal’s report has proved that Rahul Gandhi’s repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were correct.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi had said if the Congress party came to power, a criminal investigation would be launched into the Rafale jet deal and the accused would be punished.
“Who decided to raise the price of Rafale aircraft from ₹ 526 crore to ₹ 1,600 crore – the Air Force, Defence Ministry or the PM? The Air Force requires 126 aircraft. Who reduced the number of planes to 36? Who decided to give the contract to Anil Ambani,” He asked.
Congress’ five questions to government
In the press conference, Congress posed five questions to the central government:
- Was the payment of 1.1 million euros shown by Dassault as ‘Gifts to Clients’ in reality a commission to a middleman for the Rafael Deal?
2. How can “Middleman” and “Payment of Commission” be permitted in a ‘Government to Government defence contract” or in any defence procurement in India in violation of the mandatory defence procurement procedure?
3. Has it not vitiated the Rafael deal entailing imposition of heavy financial penalties on Dassault, banning of the company, registration of an FIR and other penal consequences?
4. Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India’s biggest defence deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission, in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government?
5. Will Prime Minister, Modi answer to the Nation?
BJP dismisses allegations
Now, with all the buzz going on, BJP finally responded to the matter and dismissed the allegations of Congress as “completely baseless”. Responding to a question about the Congress’ attack on the Modi government over the bribe allegations, senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that the opposition party made it a big issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but lost badly.
He said the allegations of corruption were “completely baseless” and suggested that a report in the French media about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal may be due to “corporate rivalry” in that country.
He noted that Sushen Gupta, the middleman whose name has cropped up in the French report on the Rafale deal, was arrested in the AgustaWestland case by the Enforcement Directorate in 2019.
(With agency inputs)