Rafale: Congress seeks thorough investigation of 2.81bn euro loss
The Congress on Friday made a fresh demand for a thorough investigation as latest revelations in the Rafale deal suggested a loss of Rs 21,075 crore (2.81 billion euros) to the national exchequer because the Indian Negotiating Team was overruled to fix a higher price for the fighter jets acquired from the French company Dassault Aviation.
Claiming vindication of its stand that the Rafale deal involved massive corruption, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said at a news conference: “The Prime Minister needs to answer some questions. Isn’t it correct that the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) on August 10, 2015, arrived at a benchmark cost of 5.06 billion euros for 36 Rafale fighter jets including weaponry package, etc? Is it now not proved by the INT document released by the French news portal Mediapart which has accessed Enforcement Directorate (ED) documents recovered from the middleman?”
Surjewala added: “Isn’t it correct that the price of 7.87 billion euros for 36 aircraft was decided by Dassault Aviation in its internal meeting dated January 20, 2016? Isn’t it correct that the INT had rejected this price calculation of 7.87 billion euros for the 36 aircraft the very next day? Isn’t it correct that on September 23, 2016, the price of 7.87 billion euros (as decided by Dassault in their internal meeting) was accepted by the (Narendra) Modi government and the contract awarded to Dassault?”
The Congress had earlier also accused the Prime Minister’s Office of overruling the INT to fix a higher price.
Surjewala said: “What was the quid pro quo for accepting the price of 7.87 billion euros when the defence ministry itself had calculated the cost at 5.06 billion euros and had rejected the Dassault calculation? What is the reason for additional payment of 2.81 billion euros (Rs 21,075 crore — value in 2016), causing loss to the public exchequer?
Asking why the Modi government was silent on these revelations despite seizure of sensitive confidential documents from the said middleman in 2019, brought out in public domain now by the French news portal, Surjewala queried: “Isn’t it correct that the ED has recovered the ‘secret defence ministry documents’ from the middleman in the raid dated March 26, 2019, including the benchmark price document dated August 10, 2015, the ‘record of discussions’ by the INT, the ‘Excel sheet of calculations’ made by the defence ministry and Eurofighter’s counter offer of 20 per cent discount to the government?”
The Congress spokesperson said: “Why did the Modi government then not take action against Dassault, the political executive or the defence ministry officers who leaked the documents? Isn’t it correct that ‘anti-corruption clauses’, that is, ‘no bribery, no gift, no influence, no commission, no middlemen’ is the mandatory policy in defence contracts as per the ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’? Isn’t it correct that the ‘anti-corruption clauses’ were part of the tender issued by the UPA for purchase of 126 fighter aircraft? Isn’t it correct that the mandatory ‘anti-corruption clauses’ were proposed by the defence ministry to be part of the ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement’ dated July 20, 2015? Isn’t it correct that the French government/Dassault deleted the anti-corruption clauses?”
Surjewala asked: “How was a middleman in a reported note to Dassault dated June 24, 2014, promising Dassault officials ‘a meeting with Indian political high command’ and possible change of the defence minister? Did such a meeting take place with the ‘high command’ in the Modi government? Is it correct that after the alleged meeting, the Prime Minister announced the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft on April 10, 2015, and also the removal of HAL as the offset partner and bringing in a private Indian industrialist? Is it also correct that the defence portfolio was also changed in November 2014?”