"Corruption, favouritism”: Modi govt holding back French probe into Rafale deal, claims Mediapart

French authorities express concerns about delays and incomplete responses from Indian partners

Indian PM Narendra Modi and French president Emmanuel Macron. (photo: National Herald archives)
Indian PM Narendra Modi and French president Emmanuel Macron. (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

The Modi government has obstructed and not cooperated with French judges investigating alleged corruption in the 2016 sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets to India for €7.8 billion (Rs 670 crore), French investigative website Mediapart has claimed in a report published on Thursday, 14 December.

Citing former French ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain’s diplomatic note, Mediapart claimed that French authorities had expressed concerns with regard to delays and incomplete responses from Indian partners. “Many cases are handled by our Indian partners with very long delays, often in an incomplete manner,” Lenain had said in the note, according to Mediapart.

The report reveals that the Indian government has de facto declined to comply with a formal request for international cooperation made by French judges, investigating “favouritism” “corruption” and “influence peddling” in Rafale deal.

The request for international cooperation was made in November 2022. The French Embassy in India faced challenges and distractions for eight months before communication ceased entirely, noted the Mediapart which previously reported how French and Indian governments tried to impede an investigation that could implicate leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and former French President François Hollande.

As per the Mediapart report, French investigating judges seeking judicial documents from India requested joint searches at the offices of key individuals, including Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), a joint venture involving Dassault and the Reliance group led by Anil Ambani. But they faced refusals.

In July 2018, National Herald reported how Anil Ambani floated his Reliance Defence venture just 12 days before PM Modi announced the Rafale deal in Paris. Ambani was awarded an offset contract worth over Rs 30,000 crore by the Modi government at the cost of the government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

It is worth noting here that the Modi government had removed "anti-corruption clauses" from the Rafale deal in 2016 just before the signing of the final contract.

As per the Mediapart report, the Modi government has also refused to provide judicial documents concerning Dassault and Sushen Gupta, an influential defence businessman who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the alleged Agusta Westland Chopper scam. Gupta was also the Rafale deal agent, who received “millions in commission”, Mediapart reported in April 2021.

The Modi government's reluctance to provide documents is hindering the French judicial investigation into corruption allegations surrounding the Rafale deal, claimed the report.

“On 28 November, 2022, the French embassy’s domestic security attaché went in person to the Ministry of Home Affairs to meet the liaison judge in charge of international cooperation, and handed over the request from the French judges,” the Mediapart claimed. “It (the request) was also sent to the ministry by courier a few days later, but the Indian liaison judge did not get back in touch for two months.”

The report also highlights challenges faced by the investigating judges in France, including dismissals of complaints and delays in initiating an investigation.

Mediapart claimed that the Modi government and relevant Indian authorities have not responded to queries.

Political analysts say the Mediapart report underscores the apparent desire of the Modi government, shared with Paris, to prevent a conclusive outcome in the French judicial investigation into alleged corruption in the Rafale jet sale deal.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines