New Delhi: A French anti-corruption NGO has filed a complaint with the country’s financial prosecutor office demanding an investigation into alleged corruption in the controversial Rafale Deal, signed between India and France in September 2016.
In its complaint, the NGO Sherpa, which fights “economic” crimes, sought a clarification on the conditions under which the deal for 36 fighter jets was signed with India as well as the choice of Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence as an offset partner by Dassault Aviation.
The complaint highlighted “potential acts of corruption, granting of undue advantages, influence peddling, complicity of these offenses and money laundering” by Government of France and Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter aircraft, French news website Mediapart reported.
The NGO said in a press release that it filed the complaint following the one by a former minister and an anti-corruption lawyer to the Central Bureau of Investigation in India against "Prime Minister Narendra Modi for 'abuse of authority' and 'grant of undue advantages' in connection with the sale of Rafale, and the facts revealed by Mediapart and Sherpa's investigation."
The NGO added that it expects the National Public Prosecutor's Office to "promptly investigate the seriousness of the facts and the presumptions on the reported offences”.
“Everything indicates that it is likely to be a very serious matter,” said William Bourdon, the founder of Sherpa told Mediapart.
Sherpa has also sought a probe into the choice of Dassault’s Indian offset partner, Anil Ambani’s Reliance group, which had no “experience in the manufacture of fighter jets” and was only registered “twelve days” before the announcement of the finalisation of the contract.
The complaint was filed at the end of October and it’s not clear if the National Public Prosecutor's Office has already started an inquiry into the case.
The deal for the 36 fighter jets with France has turned into a massive political controversy in India, with opposition parties alleging corruption. The Congress alleges that Dassault was forced to pick Anil Ambani firm as an offset partner despite its inexperience in the field by the Narendra Modi government to bag the deal.
Dassault and the government have, however, rubbished the allegations.
The Rafale deal was announced in 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's talks in Paris with then French president Francois Hollande. The political row over the jet deal escalated sharply after Francois Hollande said in an interview that France had no choice but to select Anil Ambani's company for the offset clause.
Petitions asking for a court-monitored investigation into the deal by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan are being heard by the Supreme Court, which earlier this month asked the government to furnish details of the price in 10 days. The government has, in a sealed cover submitted the pricing details of the jets to the court, but said only experts can launch a review of the deal.