Indian media on Tuesday published reports regarding a fresh political controversy over the Rafale deal as evidence pointed out that Indian agencies ignored allegations that French company Dassault, the maker of the Rafale jets, may have paid millions of euros to “middlemen”.
French portal Mediapart has reported that Dassault paid almost 13 million euros to middleman Sushen Gupta between 2002 and 2012 to help secure the sale of Rafale fighter jets to India.
Indian agencies failed to investigate these allegations despite having access to incriminating documents on at least some of these payments, NDTV reported.
“Now NDTV has found more documents that show that in 2019, three years after India signed the Rafale deal, central agencies, including the CBI, were alerted to possible kickbacks paid by Dassault, yet they failed to act on the allegations. Such allegations could have led to a blacklist of Dassault under Indian laws,” the report stated.
It said that the documents form part of the CBI’s charge-sheet on alleged corruption in the sale of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to top leaders in India. “They include a statement by Dheeraj Aggarwal, then manager of IT services company IDS, who in 2019 told the CBI that Dassault routed money to Sushen Gupta’s Mauritius-based shell firm Interstellar through IDS.”
It was reported that the payment period spans the NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which was in power till 2004, and the UPA, which came to power right afterwards.
Despite including this testimony in its court filings, the CBI did not initiate a probe against the company, it added.
According to Indian laws, a company can be suspended or banned if it “resorts to corrupt practices,” “unfair means” or “illegal activities” during any period of the bidding and negotiations.
Meanwhile, a minister in the Indian state of Maharashtra demanded that the Centre should investigate claims made by the French portal.
“A lot of news regarding Rafale has been coming in the French media. I think the way the news is coming the government should investigate the matter. We demand an investigation by the government,” said Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik.
The 7.8-billion euro ($9.3 billion) deal for 36 planes between the Indian government and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault has long been mired in corruption allegations.
Dassault had initially won a contract in 2012 to supply 126 jets to India and had been negotiating with Indian aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
By March 2015, those talks had almost reached a conclusion, according to Dassault. But in April of that year, after Modi paid an official visit to France, the talks suddenly broke down to general surprise.
Reliance Group, which has no experience in aeronautics, later replaced HAL and finalised a new contract for 36 jets.
France’s Le Monde newspaper also revealed that France in 2015 cancelled a 143.7-million euro tax adjustment targeting a French firm belonging to Reliance, at the time when the deal was being negotiated.