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BJP lands in trouble after French judge reopens probe into Rafale deal

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: A recent development in France’s “highly sensitive” Rafale fighter jet deal with India has led to a war of words between the opposition Congress and the ruling-BJP party as a French judge has been appointed to lead a judicial investigation into alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with India, reported French investigative website Mediapart.

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Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come forward and order a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.

“Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government has ordered a probe,” he told reporters at a press conference.

The BJP reacted sharply to the Congress demand.

“Congress is synonymous with lies and myths. Today they lied about Rafale deal, again. If a country’s (France) NGO (Sherpa) complains against a charge and its financial prosecution body orders a probe accordingly, it should not be seen as corruption,” BJP leader Sambit Patra said.

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‘Probe formally opened on June 14′

The Mediapart said the probe into the inter-governmental deal signed in 2016 was formally opened on June 14.

“A judicial probe into suspected corruption has been opened in France over the 7.8-billion-euro sale to India in 2016 of 36 Dassault-built Rafale fighter aircraft,” the Mediapart reported on the latest development on the controversial deal.

It said the investigation has been initiated by the national financial prosecutors’ office (PNF).

The judicial investigation has been ordered by France’s national financial prosecutors’ office, following Mediapart’s fresh reports in April of alleged wrongdoings in the deal as well as a complaint filed by French NGO Sherpa that specialises in financial crime.

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Mediapart journalist Yann Philippin, who filed a series of reports on the deal, said a first complaint was “buried” in 2019 by a former PNF chief.

“The judicial investigation was finally opened following the revelations of the investigation #RafalePapers of @mediapart and a new complaint from @Asso_Sherpa. A 1st complaint was buried in 2019 by the former PNF boss, Eliane Houlette,” he tweeted.

In April, Mediapart, citing an investigation by the country’s anti-corruption agency, reported that Dassault Aviation had paid about one million Euros to an Indian middleman.

Dassault Aviation has rejected the allegations of corruption, saying no violations were reported in the frame of the contract.DA

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.

The Congress accused the government of massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that it was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government during the negotiations for the MMRCA.

Prior to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the Congress raised several questions about the deal and alleged corruption but the government rejected all the charges. 

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Congress again demands JPC probe

The Congress on Saturday demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale Deal.

Addressing a press conference virtually, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “The scandalous expose of Rafale scam involving corruption, treason, loss to public exchequer has finally been uncovered.”

He said that Congress and former party chief Rahul Gandhi stand vindicated today.

He said that if the role of former French President Francois Hollande and current President Emmanuel Macron is being investigated, then why not Indian former defence minister and an Indian company can also be investigated.

He said that the media outlet in France has revealed the deal between Dassault and an Indian company which constituted a joint venture.

He said, “This substantiates the statement made by then President Francois Hollande, who said that the decision to appoint an Indian company as Dassault’s industrial partner was of the Indian government, meaning the Modi government. And the French had no choice into the matter.”

He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a deal worth 7.8 billion euro to buy 36 Rafale jets in place of 126 fighter jets.

Surjewala pointed out that the French government deleted the anti-corruption clause.

“The defects now clearly call for a JPC probe,” Surjewala added.

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