05 Apr 2021: Dassault paid 1M euros to 'middleman' in Rafale deal: Report
The French anti-corruption agency Agence Française Anticorruption (AFA) has reportedly found that Dassault Aviation paid 1 million euros to a "middleman" after signing the 2016 Rafale deal.
Dassault is the French manufacturer of Rafale jets. India has procured 36 jets for the Indian Air Force for Rs. 58,000 crore.
Reportedly, the "middleman" is accused of money laundering in India in another defense deal.
Suspect payment: 508,925 euros paid 'gift to clients'
Dassault claimed the amount was used to pay for the manufacture of 50 large replica models of Rafale jets, but inspectors were given no proof that these models were ever created.
Inaction: AFA did not refer case to prosecutors 'against all logic'
Dassault failed to furnish a "single document showing that these models existed and were delivered, and not even a photograph," the report said. However, the AFA did not refer the case to prosecutors "against all apparent logic."
It further said that a watch or an expensive meal costing several hundred euros is enough to constitute corruption.
Invoice: Dassault sent AFA proforma invoice supplied by Defsys Solutions
Reportedly, to justify the "larger than usual gift," Dassault sent AFA a proforma invoice dated March 30, 2017, supplied by an Indian company called Defsys Solutions.
"This invoice, which related to 50% of the total order (1,017,850 euros), was for the manufacture of 50 models of the Rafale C, with a price per unit of 20,357 euros," the report said.
Defsys Solutions: What is Defsys Solutions?
Defsys Solutions is one of Dassault's sub-contractors in India for the Rafale deal.
The report said the company belongs to the Gupta family, whose members have acted as middlemen in the aeronautical and defense industries for three generations.
In January 2019, reports had said that Sushen Gupta had worked on the Rafale contract and allegedly obtained confidential documents from India's Ministry of Defence.
Fact: Sushen Gupta involved in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam
Gupta operated as an agent for Dassault. Notably, he is also being investigated by Indian agencies over his role in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam. He was earlier arrested and granted bail in the case.
Deal: Rs. 58,000 crore Rafale deal signed in 2016
In April 2015, during a visit to France, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the direct purchase of 36 Rafale jets.
In 2016, the government signed a Rs. 58,000 crore deal to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India last July. As of now, the size of India's Rafale fleet is 14.
Criticism: Congress demands Modi's clarification on recent findings
After the report emerged, the Congress party demanded Modi's clarification on the bribery allegations
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked, "Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India's biggest defense deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission, in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government?"
BJP: BJP dismisses report as 'completely baseless'
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday dismissed the report as "completely baseless."
"Supreme Court and the CAG have found nothing wrong in the deal," he said.
"A French journal has published the issue. We have to take into consideration the issue of corporate rivalry in France. The report has named (middleman) Sushen Gupta who was arrested in the AgustaWestland scam," he added.