Why did PMO approve inflated cost of extra Rs 21 thousand Crore for Rafale jets?

Indian Government overruled defence ministry, approved inflated cost, allowed anti-corruption clauses to be deleted by the French Government…can the country now have an inquiry into the Rafale deal?

Photo courtesy: Social media
Photo courtesy: Social media

NH Web Desk

What was the quid pro quo received for allowing the French manufacturer of Rafale jets, Dassault, to bill India Rs 21 thousand Crore more than what the Indian defence ministry had agreed? How did a middleman know that the country’s defence minister was being changed? How did the middleman get access to classified and sensitive documents from the defence ministry?

And why has the Government and the Prime Minister not allowed an investigaton into the document leak even three years after the Enforcement Directorate recovered the documents in a raid?

Now that the documents, accessed by French online portal Mediapart from ED’s own charge sheet, are in the public domain, can the country have an independent investigation into the collusion and complicity that cost the Indian exchequer a loss of Rs 21,000 Crore, if not more? Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala on Friday demanded an answer to the questions from the government and wondered if the Indian ‘political high command’ had indeed met Dassault officials as the Indian middleman had promised.

Releasing a set of documents, Surjewala laid out the following timeline and questions raised by the French portal’s investigation:

· The ‘Indian Negotiating Team’ (INT) on 10th August 2015 arrived at a benchmark cost of Euro 5.06 Billion for 36 Rafale Fighter Jets including weaponry package etc., show document released by the French News Portal/Agency – Mediapart.fr which accessed ED documents recovered from middlemen.

· The price of Euro 7.87 Billion for 36 aircrafts was decided by Dassault Aviation in its internal meeting dated 20-01-2016. The Indian Negotiating team rejected this price the very next day.

· On 23-09-2016, the price of 7.87 billion Euros for 36 aircrafts was accepted by the Modi Govt and contract awarded to Dassault.

What was the quid pro quo for accepting the price of Euro 7.87 Billion when the Defence ministry had calculated the fair price to be Euro 5.06 billion? What prompted the additional payment which caused loss to the public exchequer?

Enforcement Directorate (ED) recovered “secret defence ministry documents” from middlemen following a conducted on March 26, 2019. The ED recovered:

a) ‘Benchmark Price Document’ dated 10-08-2015

b) ‘Record of Discussions’ by the INT of Defence Ministry

c) ‘Excel Sheet of calculations made by the defence ministry, and

d) Eurofighter’s counter offer of 20% discount to GOI

Why was no action taken against Dassault or against politicians or defence officials who could have leaked the documents ?

· The ‘Anti-Corruption clauses’ in the defence contract procedure specify “No bribery, No Gift, No Influence, No Commission, No Middlemen”. They were part of the tender issued by the UPA for purchase of 126 Fighter aircrafts.

· But these mandatory clauses mentioned by the defence ministry in the ‘Inter-governmental Agreement’ dated 20-07-2015 were deleted by the French government or Dassault. This was probably done to escape responsibility from bribery and commission to be paid in the Rafale deal.

Why was the deletion of ‘Anti-Corruption clauses’ then approved by the Prime Minister in September 2016?

· How did a defence middlemen in a note to Dassault dated 24-06-2014 promise Dassault officials “a meeting with Indian political high command” and indicated that a new Defence Minister would be appointed?

· Did such a meeting take place with the “high command” in Modi Govt?

How could a private individual and middlemen be so powerful as to influence the decisions of the Modi Govt in India’s biggest Defence deal? Does it not require a thorough independent investigation, Surjewala asked.

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