Kickbacks in Rafale deal: French portal Mediapart
French online news portal Mediapart, which has been pursuing the cover-up in France of the misdeeds in the Rafale deal with India, on Thursday reported that Sushen Gupta, a defence dealer under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate for money laundering in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, received “kickbacks” to influence the purchase of the 36 aircraft in flyaway condition.
Citing the ED investigation, which said Gupta also “received kickbacks” to influence the result of “other defence deals”, the Mediapart report states it has information that one such deal is “the inter-governmental agreement signed in 2016 for the 7.8-billion-euro sale by France to India of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, built by Dassault Aviation’’.
In all these cases, ED had said the money was found to have transited through the same shell companies and the same types of “software consultancy” contracts used in the helicopter deal.
As middleman for Dassault and Thales — a defence electronics firm in which Dassault and the French state are the major shareholders — Gupta obtained confidential documents from the Indian defence ministry relating to the activities of the negotiating team during the discussions on the Rafale deal in 2015, Mediapart said.
In the first of its three-part series on the Rafale deal, Mediapart had disclosed that Gupta was involved in the deal though both the Indian and the French governments had stated that no middlemen were involved in this agreement. Mediapart reported that the French anti-corruption unit found that one million euros had been paid to Defsys Solutions — owned by Gupta’s family — by Dassault Aviation which it had failed to explain.
In India, the Rafale deal has been mired in controversy ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it during his April 2015 visit to Paris, contradicting then foreign secretary S. Jaishankar’s official statement that the plan to purchase 126 French fighter jets would not be taken up for discussion during the visit.
Not only did Modi announce a deal for 36 Rafales in a flyaway state, he also junked the earlier deal under which the bulk of the jets were supposed to be built in India in collaboration with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Further questions cropped up after the offset deal was given to Anil Ambani’s joint venture company with Dassault instead of HAL.