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France begins probe into Rafale deal with India

(PTI) New Delhi, DT

France sold 6 Rafale fighter jets to India for Rs. French investigative website Mediapart reports that a judge has been appointed to probe “corruption” and “profiteering” in the Rs 5,000-crore deal. In the light of the report, the Congress has once again targeted the Center and asked the Prime Minister to direct an inquiry into the Rafale scam through a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The BJP, on the other hand, has accused Rahul Gandhi of acting as an agent of rival defense companies and using them as ‘pawns’.

The Financial Crimes Wing (PNF) of France’s Public Prosecution Services on Friday said a French judge was assigned to India to investigate a controversial multi-billion dollar deal for Rafale fighter jets on suspicion of “corruption”. According to a report in Mediapart, a formal investigation into the deal between the two governments, France and India, was launched on June 15.

According to a report on the website, a judicial inquiry has been launched into alleged corruption in France in relation to a €4.5 billion deal in 2012 to sell 5 Raffles to India. The report said an investigation has been launched by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF). The PNF has ordered an inquiry into allegations of irregularities in the deal following a report by Mediapart and a complaint by French NGO Sherpa in April. The judges will also question the performance of then French President Francois Hollande and then Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron, who is currently the President of France. Apart from this, then Defense Minister and now French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is also likely to be questioned. Sherpa, in his first complaint in 2016, also criticized the fact that Dassault had selected billionaire Anil Ambani-headed Reliance Group as its Indian partner, who is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mediapart journalist Yan Filipin said the first complaint filed by the NGO Sherpa was suppressed by the former president of PNF. In April, the website cited an investigation by France’s anti-corruption agency, which claimed that Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale aircraft, had paid one million euros to an Indian intermediary. Dassault Aviation has denied the allegations, saying there was no breach of rules in framing the contract.

What is the controversy in the raffle deal?

The BJP-led NDA government has agreed to pay Rs 5 lakh for the purchase of six Rafale fighter jets from French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. The Rs 5,000 crore deal was signed on 4 September 2016. The deal for the Rafale fighter was struck with Dassault Aviation, a leading French aerospace company, after nearly seven years of proceedings for the purchase of 12 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) during the previous UPA government. The actual deal was supposed to be a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), but talks broke down between the two sides. Later, in 2015 a deal was struck between the two countries, under which 4.5 billion euros were paid for five Rafale aircraft and Dassault Aviation partnered with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group.

India got 3 out of 5 raffles

The country has so far inducted the sixth batch of state-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets into the Air Force’s fleet amid the ongoing conflict between India and China in eastern Ladakh. The sixth batch of three Rafale fighter jets reached India at the end of May. The first batch of five raffles arrived in India on July 9 last year. The first squadron of Rafale has been prepared at Ambala airbase in India while the second squadron has been stationed at Hashimara in West Bengal. With the arrival of the sixth batch in India, the Air Force has acquired two-thirds of the Rafale fighter jets from France. According to Defense Ministry sources, all 5 Rafale fighter jets from France will be delivered to India by April 203.

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