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Dassault Aviation paid kickbacks during UPA rule to sell Rafale: French news portal

Scrapping that deal, the NDA inked a Rs 59,000-crore contract in 2016 with France to procure 36 Rafale fighter planes from Dassault Aviation

French news portal Mediapart today claimed in a new report that it has evidence of kickbacks from French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in the period 2007-12 to help secure the sale of Rafale fighter aircraft to India. Mediapart has alleged that false invoices were used to enable Dassault Aviation to pay at least € 7.5 million (nearly Rs 65 crore) in secret commissions to middleman Sushen Gupta.

Gupta was earlier arrested for alleged bribes in the AgustaWestland deal.

According to the report, Dassault Aviation made these payments between 2007 and 2012 during the rule of the INC-led UPA government.

The BJP-led NDA government scrapped the UPA-era Rafale deal after the current ruling party came to power in 2014. The NDA then inked a Rs 59,000-crore government-to-government deal on 23 September 2016 with France to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation.

Citing the Mediapart report, BJP leader Amit Malviya tweeted, “The UPA was collecting kickbacks but couldn’t close the deal? NDA later scrapped it and got into a contract with the French Govt, which upset Rahul Gandhi no end.”

The French media portal said further that the CBI and the ED had evidence of bribe being paid since October 2018 but did not pursue the matter.

A report on the Mediapart website reads:

It involves offshore companies, dubious contracts and ‘false’ invoices. Mediapart can reveal that detectives from India’s federal police force, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and colleagues from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights money laundering, have had proof since October 2018 that French aviation firm Dassault paid at least 7.5 million euros (equivalent to just under 650 million rupees) in secret commissions to middleman Sushen Gupta. This was in the context of the French firm’s long and ultimately successful attempt to secure a 7.8 billion-euro-deal in 2016 to sell 36 of its Rafale fighters to India.

Mediapart had, in April, published a report to reveal how an influential Indian business intermediary was secretly paid millions of euros by Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation and French defence electronics firm Thales. They succeeded in removing anti-corruption clauses from the fighter contract which was subsequently signed by the then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the report said.

Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation and India’s defence ministry have previously trashed allegations of any corruption in the contract.

The Supreme Court had in 2019 dismissed petitions seeking a probe into the deal saying there was no ground for it.

In a statement published in April, reacting to Mediapart‘s report on the investigation, Dassault Aviation stated that the group, “acts in strict compliance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and national laws”.

The French manufacturer has begun delivering customised Rafale planes to India.

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