Source : ET

With a judicial investigation into alleged corruption and favouritism reportedly initiated in France, the Opposition reiterated its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal that was signed in 2016, while the BJP reacted strongly, accusing the Congress of lying.

According to French media reports, a judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial investigation into allegations of corruption. This has reignited interest in the case that had been buried for years after a clean chit from the Supreme Court as well as all-clear reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

French media outlet Mediapart reported that the judicial inquiry has been initiated on June 14 and alleges that a “financial gift (was) granted by Dassault to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group”. It also claims to have documents showing that the partnership between the French company and its Indian offset partner was signed two weeks before a surprise announcement was made to procure 36 Rafale jets, instead of the 126 aircraft that were being negotiated earlier.

Following the reports, the Congress party has demanded a JPC probe into the deal, breathing back life into its charge against alleged corruption and favouritism. “Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government has ordered a probe,” Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said at a press conference.

“Congress is synonymous with lies and myths. Today they lied about Rafale deal, again. If a country’s NGO complains against a charge and its financial prosecution body orders a probe accordingly, it should not be seen as corruption,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

Complaint by NGO Sherpa
As of Saturday evening, there was no response from Dassault or the Indian government on the matter, though in the past both have vehemently denied any wrongdoing in the deal. Both have also pointed to a clean chit by the SC into allegations of corruption. According to French media reports, the investigation is being done under oversight of the national financial prosecutors’ office (PNF).

The assumption is that this was necessitated after a fresh complaint by corruption watchdog Sherpa NGO. They added that an earlier complaint by the NGO had allegedly been buried by the PNF.

Earlier in April, Mediapart had reported on allegations that a middleman was paid a million euros as part of the Rafale deal. This report had been countered by Dassault that said no violations had taken place and the money was part of a contract to supply models of the fighter jet that were fabricated in India.

Dassault had said that no violations have been reported in the Indian contract and that it was in strict compliance of anti bribery convention and French national laws. “The contract with India for the acquisition of 36 Rafales has been established on a government-to-government basis. This contract, as well as the offsets corresponding contract, meet the criteria established by these regulations and are being executed in full transparency between the various government and industrial partners,” Dassault had said.

The company had also emphasised that it delivered all aircraft on schedule to India despite the Covid-19 epidemic and that the JV plant Dassault Reliance Aerospace has been producing aircraft parts since 2018 as part of the offsets deal.

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