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Charges of kickback in Rafale deal haunt Modi govt once again

Mediapart report had prompted the Congress to demand an independent investigation and answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Monday April 5, 2021 11:20 PM, ummid.com with inputs from Agencies

Rafale deal

New Delhi: Allegations of kickback in Rafale deal resurfaced once again after media reports in France claimed that the aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation had paid 1.1 million Euros to an Indian company, prompting the Congress on Monday to demand an independent investigation and answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Rafale fighter jets deal involved a payment worth one million euros (Rs 8.62 crore) to an Indian middleman, which plane maker Dassault has not been able to explain to the French anti-corruption authorities, the country’s online journal Mediapart reported Sunday.

In the first report of a three-part investigation, Mediapart claimed that in mid-October 2018, French anti-corruption agency, Agence Française Anticorruption, first spotted the payment and asked Rafale manufacturer Dassault for an explanation.

The report claimed that Dassault had agreed to pay the amount to one of its sub-contractors in India, Defsys Solutions soon after the Rafale deal was finalised on September 23, 2016.

Dassault said that money was used to pay for the manufacture of 50 large replica models of Rafale jets, Mediapart reported. The French company was, however, not able to provide any proof to the AFA to show that the models were actually made.

"Congress demand fresh probe"

Following the claims made by Mediapart in its report, Congress has demanded a probe by an independent agency and also sought answer from Prime Minister Modi.

Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala while addressing a press conference Monday said that the French news portal's report has proved that Rahul Gandhi's oft-repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were correct.

"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," he asked at the press conference.

"Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi answer to the nation now?" he asked.

Surjewala said that as per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), any evidence of middleman or commission or bribery has serious penal consequences including the banning of the supplier, cancellation of contract, registration of an FIR and imposition of heavy financial penalties on the company.

"Has it not vitiated the Rafale deal entailing imposition of heavy financial penalties on Dassault, banning of the company, registration of an FIR and other penal consequences," he asked.

"Completely baseless"

Replying to the Congress demand senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that the opposition created the issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but lost badly.

He said the allegations of dishonest dealings were untrue and suggested that the French media report about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal was probably due to "corporate rivalry" in that country.

He also said that the Supreme Court had declined a request for a probe in the purchase of the aircraft, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India also did not find anything wrong.


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