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Important Highlights -1 Million Euros Paid to Middleman in Rafale Deal: Report

Dassault paid 1 million Euros to a middleman in Rafale Deal claims report by Mediapart.

The 2016 Rafale Deal is once again under the spotlight after a French anti-corruption agency raised concerns over a suspicious payment made by Dassault Aviation to an Indian defense company in 2017-18. This report was recently published by French investigative news website Mediapart.

The report claimed that Dassault Aviation, the Rafale jet maker, was unable to lucidly explain the reason for an item of expenditure costing 508,925 euros entered under the heading ‘gifts to clients’, in their books of accounts. “This amount ‘seemed disproportionate in relation to all the other entries’ under the same heading, said the subsequent confidential report of the AFA audit…,” the media report said. Dassault Aviation provided The Agence Française Anticorruption (AFA) with a ‘proforma invoice’ dated March 30th, 2017. This invoice, Dassault claimed, related to the 50% of the total order (€1,017,850) for 50 models of the Rafale C, with a price per unit of €20,357.

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“The French law does not set precise limits for gifts but legal precedents suggest that giving a watch or an expensive meal costing several hundred euros can be enough to constitute corruption,” the report said. The AFA then asked Dassault Aviation why it hired Defsys Solutions, an Indian company, to make models of its own aircraft, each the size of a small car, at 20,000 euros a model? And why was this expenditure recorded as a ‘gift to client’? The media report said that the AFA could not come up with a “single document showing that these models existed and were delivered”. It was reported that Dassault did not even have a single photograph of these car-sized models.

Defsys Solutions belongs to the family of Sushen Gupta, who was arrested by the Indian Enforcement Directorate in 2019. “He was later freed on bail facing charges of “money laundering” over the so-called ‘Choppergate’ corruption scandal involving the sale of helicopters to India by the Italian-British group AgustaWestland,” the report added. According to the report, Gupta family members “acted as middlemen in the aeronautical and defense industries for three generations”. Defsys is contracted to carry out maintenance of Rafale simulators at both the Ambala base and the Hasimara base where the second squadron of the Rafale will be based. It was revealed in January 2019, that Sushen Gupta, who operated as an agent for Dassault, had worked on the Rafale contract and had allegedly obtained confidential documents from India’s Ministry of Defence.

It was cited on the Mediapart report, that the AFA decided not to refer the matter to French prosecution authorities for further investigation and legal action. It should be noted that a number of Rafale models have set up across the country one of these models can be seen outside the residence of the Air Chief. Other sources said that models are also installed at the Western Air Command, the IAF base in Gwalior while some are headed to the new Rafale squadron being set up in Hasimara and others lie in a warehouse waiting to be installed.

Congress has attacked the Central Government by saying that one cannot avoid Karma which is the ledger of one’s actions. The government denied allegations made by the Congress leader that commissions have been paid in the Rafale deal. The Congress has demanded a full and independent investigation into India’s biggest defense deal to find out how much bribery and commission, in reality, was paid and to whom. The BJP has dismissed the claims made by the report as “completely baseless”.

During the 2019 elections campaign, the Congress alleged that the BJP-led government bought the jets at a higher price compared with one negotiated earlier by the UPA and that PM Modi made sure that the deal went to Anil Ambani owned company instead of the public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The Congress lost the 2019 elections but the new claims on bribery involved in Rafale Deal have reignited their campaign.

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