New development in Rafale case, judge appointed to probe deal

France has opened the investigation into the alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the Rafale deal signed with India in 2016 for the sale of 36 Dassault-built fighter jets. A French judge has additionally been appointed to lead a judicial probe in the 7.8 billion euros (approx Rs 59,000 crore) price deal.

The monetary crimes department of the French public prosecution providers (PNF) has mentioned that the investigation will look into allegations of corruption and favouritism in the pact for 36 fighter planes between the Indian authorities and French plane producer Dassault.

French publication Mediapart on Friday reported that the felony investigation will likely be led by an unbiased Justice of the Peace “who will, among other elements, examine questions surrounding the actions of former French president François Hollande”.

Former French president Hollande was in workplace when the Rafale deal was inked, and present French president Emmanuel Macron was Hollande’s financial system and finance minister.

The extremely delicate probe into the inter-governmental deal signed in 2016 was formally opened on June 14, Mediapart reported.

The development got here following a sequence of investigations finished by Mediapart and a subsequent grievance filed by the French NGO Sherpa. An identical grievance filed earlier by Sherpa was rejected by the PNF in 2018.

Mediapart had carried a sequence of reviews on alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal in April 2021. In one of many reviews, Mediapart claimed that the previous head of PNF Éliane Houlette shelved an investigation into alleged proof of corruption in the Rafale deal regardless of the objection of colleagues.

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Dassault aviation has not reacted to the developments. Earlier it had denied any wrongdoings in the Indo-French deal and mentioned, “Numerous controls are carried out by official organizations, together with the French Anti-Corruption Agency. No violations have been reported, notably in the body of the contract with India for the acquisition of 36 Rafales.”

The original contract that involved Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the supply of 126 fighter jets was won by Dassault but the subsequent talks between the two sides reportedly broke down.

THE CONTROVERSY

The Narendra Modi government had signed an inter-governmental deal with France in 2016 for the sale of 36 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in flyaway condition.

The deal, however, came under intense political scrutiny in India and in France after the Opposition alleged that Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence had been signed on as the offset partner by weapons manufacturer Dassault Aviation, even though the company had no previous experience.

Know all about the deal here

The Congress alleged that the Modi government signed the contract with France at a much higher price than negotiated during the UPA rule. Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders demanded that the government must reveal the price of Rafale.

The government rejected the demand saying that the price disclosure is covered under the secrecy clause of the deal. Rahul Gandhi claimed that he had been told “personally” by former French President Francois Hollande that the Modi government could reveal the price of Rafale without jeopardising the defence deal.

The Congress had been alleging favouritism by the Modi government for over a year. The first real blow to the Centre came when French publication Mediapart interviewed former French president Francois Hollande who revealed that he had no choice in selecting the Indian offset partner and the name of Reliance was given by the Indian side.

However, India’s Supreme Court heard a public interest case on the deal and said it saw nothing wrong in it in November 2019.

WATCH | SC agrees to hear fresh PIL seeking probe into Rafale deal

The final government-to-government deal signed between the two countries in 2016 provided 36 multi-role fighter aircraft for an estimated price of 7.8 billion Euros.

India has raised two squadrons of the jet on western and eastern fronts. The first squadron is fully operational at Ambala with 18 Rafale jets, whereas the second squadron is at the Hasimara airbase in West Bengal. The Indian Air Force is expected to induct all of the 36 Rafale fighter jets by 2022.

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