In France, NGO lodges corruption complaint over Rafale deal, questions choice of Reliance Defence as Dassault's offset partner

A France-based anti-corruption NGO that examines illicit financial deals has urged the French authorities to investigate the Rafale fighter jet deal with India. Filing a complaint with France's Financial Prosecutor's Office, the NGO Sherpa, has taken note of various media reports, seeking a probe in the defence deal with India.

It has sought 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 complaint specifically mentions Ambani's firm being chosen as an offset partner.

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Sherpa sought an investigation into the conditions under which Dassault finalised the deal "and in particular those that surrounded the choice of its Indian partner, Reliance (Defence), a group chaired by a close aide of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi," the statement said.

The NGO denounced the conditions under which the deal was negotiated. It sought an investigation into the suspicions of bribery and 'trading in influence' surrounding the sale of Rafale aircraft to India.

According to its press note, released on Friday, Sherpa lodged a complaint at the end of October with the prosecutor’s office after a petition seeking probe in the deal was admitted by the Indian Supreme Court.

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's complaint "follows the one filed on 4 October, 2018, by a former Indian minister and anti-corruption lawyer at the New Delhi central investigation office in India," the statement said referring to an ongoing case in Supreme Court filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan and rebel BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

According to William Bourdon, founder of Sherpa, "France cannot do less than India. Cooperation between both countries should be rapidly established, as it is always the case with international grand corruption investigation. Moreover, the hearing of great witnesses is possible and desirable".

The Rafale fighter jets, a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) which is arguably a much-needed addition to the Indian Air Force's arsenal, got stuck in a controversy after the Congress party alleged a scam in the deal signed in 2016.

The Opposition alleges that the prime minister directly intervened to get the fighter jets at a higher price than what was negotiated by the previous UPA government, in order to get a favourable deal for his 'industrialist friend'.

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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2018 11:02:59 IST

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