Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Trappier has dismissed allegations by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi that he lied about the details of the joint venture with Anil Ambani’s firm, saying he does not have a reputation for lying.
"I don't lie. The truth I declared before and the statements I made are true. I don't have a reputation of lying. In my position as CEO, you don't lie," said Trappier in an exclusive interview with ANI.
The Congress chief had alleged in a press conference that Dassault invested Rs 284 crore in a company promoted by Anil Ambani, which was used to procure land in Nagpur. "It is clear the Dassault CEO is lying. If an inquiry starts on this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not going to survive it. Guaranteed,” he had said.
Responding to the charges, Trappier said he had a long association with the Congress and the party chief’s comments had upset him. "We have a long experience with the Congress party. Our first deal was with India in 1953 with Nehru and other Prime Ministers. We have been working with India. We are not working for any party. We are supplying strategic products like fighters to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Government. That is what is most important," he said.
When questioned about the reason behind Dassault choosing Reliance Defence as an offset partner, which had no experience in manufacturing fighter jets, Trappier clarified that the money being invested was not going to the Anil Ambani firm directly but in a Joint Venture (JV) that included Dassault.
“I put my know-how free of charge on how to produce people. I have engineers and workers from Dassault who are taking the lead as far as the industrial part of this deal is concerned. At the same time, I have an Indian company like Reliance Defence that is putting money into this JV as they want to develop their country. So the company is going to know how to produce aircraft," added Trappier. He clarified that Reliance Defence would match the amount invested by his firm since the shareholding pattern is 49% Dassault and 51% Reliance as per prescribed government norms.
On the pricing issue, the CEO said the present aircraft were cheaper by 9 per cent. “Price of 36 was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway. 36 is the double of 18, so as far as I was concerned, it should have been double the price. But because it was government to government, there was some negotiation, I had to decrease price by 9 per cent. The price of Rafale in flyaway condition is less expensive in the 36 contract than the 126 contract," he said.
When asked about the initial agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the subsequent breakdown of talks with the Indian PSU for production of Rafale jets, the Dassault CEO said it happened as the initial deal of 126 aircraft did not go smooth and the government had to re-configure to urgently require 36 jets from France.
“And then I took the decision to continue with Reliance, and HAL even said in the last few days that they were not interested to be part of the offset. So, it has been done by my decision," added Trappier.
He added that Dassault was earlier in discussions with several other companies for offset tie-ups. "Obviously, we could have gone to Tata or other family groups. At that time, the decision to go ahead was not given to Dassault. We were in 2011, Tata was also discussing with other flying companies. We finally decided to go ahead with Reliance as they have experience in big engineering facilities," Trappier said.
Talking about the aircraft, the Dassault CEO explained that the present planes will have all necessary equipment but not weapons and missiles. "The weapons will be sent in different contract. But the aircraft with everything other than weapons will be dispatched by Dassault," he said.