Congress alleges Dassault chose Reliance Defence as an offset partner to bag the 59,000 crore Rafale deal
A French NGO that fights "economic crimes" has filed a complaint with their country's Financial Prosecutor's Office, seeking clarification on the conditions under which the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed with India as well as the choice of Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as an offset partner by Dassault Aviation, the makers of the jet.
The NGO, Sherpa, says its complaint follows the one by a former minister and an anti-corruption lawyer to the Central Bureau of Investigation against "Prime Minister Narendra Modi for 'abuse of authority' and 'grant of undue advantages' in connection with the sale of Rafale, and the facts revealed by Mediapart and Sherpa's investigation."
The NGO, in its press release, has said it expects the National Public Prosecutor's Office to "promptly investigate the seriousness of the facts and the presumptions on the reported offences: potential corruption, grant of undue advantages, trading in influence, complicity of these offences, concealment of corruption and laundering of these offences."
Sherpa, which filed the complaint at the end of October, calls itself an organisation with the "mission to protect and defend victims of economic crimes drawing on the power of the law and to fight against the new forms of impunity linked to globalization."
The deal for the 36 fighter jets with France has turned into a huge political controversy in India, with allegations of corruption and crony capitalism. The Congress alleges that Dassault chose Reliance Defence as an offset partner despite its inexperience in the field, to bag the Rs 59,000 crore deal. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has accused Dassault of lying.
The Congress also accuses the government of deliberately scrapping a deal the previous UPA government had negotiated with Dassault, for 126 Rafale jets under which 18 jets were to be supplied in a fly-away condition and 108 were to be manufactured in India along with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Dassault and the government have, however, rubbished Mr Gandhi's allegations. "We chose Ambani by ourselves. We already have 30 partners other than Reliance," Dassault CEO Eric Trappier told news agency ANI.
The offset clause means that in exchange for landing the Indian contract, Dassault has to invest half the value of the deal – about 30,000 crores – in Indian firms. Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence was chosen as one of those "offset" partners and is to manufacture plane parts – though not for the 36 jets ordered by India.
The Rafale deal was announced in 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's talks in Paris with then French president Francois Hollande. The political row over the jet deal escalated sharply after Francois Hollande said in an interview that France had no role in the selection of Anil Ambani's company for the offset clause.
Petitions asking for a court-monitored investigation into the deal by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan are being heard by the Supreme Court, which earlier this month asked the government to furnish details of the price in 10 days. The government has, in a sealed cover submitted the pricing details of the jets to the court, but said only experts can launch a review of the deal.
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