Strong case for investigating Rafale deal in France, says lawyer for complainant Asso Sherpa
Watch video: Ashis Ray in London spoke to Chanez Mensous, lawyer with the NGO Asso Sherpa. The NGO has sought a criminal investigation into Dassault’s deal to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to India
Ashis Ray in London spoke to Chanez Mensous, lawyer with the NGO Asso Sherpa in Paris. The NGO has filed a complaint of corruption against the French company Dassault’s deal with the Indian Government to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets. Excerpts from the interview:
Ashis Ray: Could you please tell our Indian readers about your organization?
Chanez Mensous: Sherpa was established in 2001 with the objective to work for victims of economic crime and against new forms of impunity in the globalised world. We work towards making French companies accountable for their wrongdoings. We believe French companies should follow rule law whether they operate in France or abroad.
AR: Your Non-profit organisation had in 2018, and in 2019 taken up the Rafale case with the French anti-corruption body, but you were not successful then. Why did they not investigate the matter?
CM: Until the recent Mediapart investigation were published, we had no idea why our complaint was not successful. We had submitted enough information to the public prosecutor. We were aware that the case was sensitive and we expected to face political resistance. But that it was not investigated at all was really a reflection on the flaws in French anti-corruption laws.
AR: Now that you have filed a case in the court, what makes you think that you will be successful this time?
CM: We believe it is a strong case. Our earlier revelations were good material, which have become stronger with Mediapart’s investigation. There is also some buzz around the issue in India which we think will make our Judges take the matter more seriously.
AR: Do the new revelations by French portal Mediapart support your case?
CM: Yes, their investigation cleared certain grey areas and set the narrative right. They have produced new evidence. Adding our judicial reasoning to it, the case has become stronger.
AR: One of your charges are “possible kickbacks to an intermediary in India.” What does that mean?
CM: It relates to the recent Mediapart revelation about a middleman. There are many aspects of the deal which are very shady and require investigation.
AR: So, you are saying that if Dassault knowingly had a middleman and there was some wrongdoing on the part of the middleman or Dassault that would be a crime under French law?
CM: If this middleman was in a position to influence the decisions of Indian government, then yes, it is a crime.
AR: Is that why the French company insisted on having the anti-corruption clause removed from the deal?
CM: I cannot reply to this question but it would be a logical assessment.
AR: What happens next? How fast will the process move now that you’ve filed a case?
CM: We cannot be sure. Sometimes these cases can go on for several years but as I said we have trust in traditional system judiciary. We have strong reasons to believe that the judge will take it up.
(Edited excerpts of the video interview, which can be accessed at the video section on nationalheraldindia.com. Transcribed by Sanjukta Basu)