The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the corruption allegation in the Rafale fighter jets deal as “completely baseless”. It said on 5 April that the Supreme Court had declined a request for a probe in the purchase of the aircraft, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India also did not find anything wrong.
The Indian National Congress (INC) on 5 April had sought a detailed probe in the Rafale defence deal and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million was paid to a “middleman” by the aircraft manufacturer.
INC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told a press conference that the French media’s report has proved Rahul Gandhi’s allegation of dishonest dealings in the deal to be true.
Surjewala said that as per the report published by the French portal, an investigation conducted by the ‘French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA)’ has revealed that after signing the deal in 2016, Rafale’s manufacturer Dassault allegedly paid 1.1 million to a middleman ― Defsys Solutions ― which is an Indian company.
“Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India’s biggest defence deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission, in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government,” the INC spokesperson asked at the press conference.
Demanding answers from the prime minister, Surjewala said that the amount of commission was shown as costs by Dassault as “gifts to clients”.
The INC leader said that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) as the stated Indian government policy envisage there will be an “Integrity Clause” in every defence purchase contract which clearly states that there can be no middleman or payment of commission or bribe.
As per the DPP, any proof of middleman or commission or bribery can result in the banning of the supplier, cancellation of contract, registration of an FIR and imposition of heavy financial penalties on the company.
“How can ‘middleman’ and ‘Payment of Commission’ be permitted in a ‘government-to-government Defence Contract’ or any defence procurement in India in violation of the mandatory Defence Procurement Procedure,” he asked.
Replying to INC’s criticism of the Modi government for allegedly accepting the bribe of a million euros, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that the opposition created the issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but lost badly.
He said the allegations of dishonest dealings were untrue and suggested that a report that had emerged in the French media about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal was probably due to “corporate rivalry” in that country.
While the ruling party did not name any firm, the indication was towards past reports in French media that later turned out to be planted by competitors of Dassault Aviation that lost the MMRCA bid.