How did India gain by dropping anti-corruption clauses from the Rafale deal, asks French portal
French portal Mediapart’s Yann Philippin tells Ashis Ray in an interview that there is enough evidence in both France and India to call for an investigation into the controversial Rafale deal
You had previously revealed what former French President Hollande had stated that at his meeting with Narendra Modi the Indian side changed the original deal from 126Rafale fighter jets to only 36 and also replaced HAL as offset partner with Anil Ambani’s company, can you elaborate?
Hollande said that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani’s company as the main partner of Dassault and there was no choice. In 2018 we had published another report revealing an internal document from Dassault in whicha Dassault executive confirmed that the partnership with Reliance was imperative for the Rafale deal.
Your report mentions that French authorities have dropped a certain investigation in the interests of France? What was that related to?
The French national financial prosecutor who is in charge of political and economic crime investigations, in 2018 received a complaint from a French anti-corruption NGO highlighting suspicious facts about two French presidents. It was brought to notice that a Reliance subsidiary company received tax benefits from French authorities. A stipulated tax of around 151 million Euros was reduced to 7 million and a tax settlement was arrived at.
The settlement was suspicious on two grounds, the scale i.e. 143 million less than what was stipulated and the timing, it was around the time Rafale deal was announced. The financial prosecutor did not pursue the investigation and closed the case on grounds that it was not in the interest of France to pursue. She never officially recorded any documents to check whether any undue advantage was given to Reliance subsidiary or not.
You say that Sushen Gupta managed to get classified documents from Indian Defence Ministry particularly related to the tactics that Indian Negotiating Team (INT) was going to use in the Rafale deal, how much was he paid for it?
I cannot say that. [Smiles] But Gupta obtained confidential documents at a time when INT were involved in a price war with French negotiators. INT had done complex calculations for the fair price. The documents contained records of INT’s internal discussions, methodology, and file notings related to the pricing. We asked the Ministry of Defence both in India and France whether they were legitimately given to Gupta, but we got no reply.
Have you seen the documents?
Yes. They are from an Enforcement Directorate (ED) case file related to the Agusta Westland money laundering for which Gupta was investigated. All the documents we have published are in ED’s possession since 2019, real question is what did they do with them? Did they open an investigation in Rafale deal or not? We tried asking ED, but again did not receive any answer.
You are saying ED has been aware since 2019 that Gupta was in possession of documents that should not have come out, and did nothing?
ED itself said it in a chargesheet filed in 2019 in Agusta Westland case that Gupta obtained sensitive confidential data from Ministry of Defence. They had given a list of these documents and some of them were related to the Rafale deal.
Your investigation reveals that close to 20 million Euros have been paid by Dassault to Sushen Gupta over the years. Will it force French authorities to reopen the investigation?
I do not know if they can be forced. But there is enough evidence on the table to justify launching of formal investigation both in India and France related to Rafale deal.
The INT’s position was that a fair price for 36 aircrafts was 5 Billion Euros, and the Indian Prime Minister’s Office overruled INT and agreed to pay around 7.8 billion Euros. Do you think Dassault team would have been benefitted if they knew in advance what the INT’s position was going to be in this price war?
I can only say that Gupta obtained confidential documents from the Ministry of Defence precisely related to INT’s pricing tactics. Having that information in hand would definitely benefit if you are on the French side of the table.
Lastly, the anti-corruption clauses of the Rafale deal
The French team fought hard and fast to remove the anti-corruption clauses from the deal which are mandatory as per Defence Procurement Procedure of India. There was a lot of back and forth bargaining by Dassault to drop the clauses which happened in September 2016 just before the deal was signed by the Indian Minister of Defence (Manohar Parrikar)
What is the advantage for Dassault by not having these clauses and whatadvantage does India have?
I do not see any advantage for India in removing these clauses. They are meant to protect Indian taxpayers as they provide that in case of corruption India can cancel a deal and seek compensation. The benefit for French side is obvious.
(Edited excerpts from the longer interview which can be accessed at nationalheraldindia.com)