Sherpa Association’s complaint alleges grant of ‘undue advantages, influence peddling’ etc against Dassault and French government.
New Delhi: In a fresh twist to the controversy over the Rafale deal, French civil society group Sherpa Association has filed a complaint at its National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, alleging “potential acts of corruption”.
Sherpa, an NGO that fights economic offences, wants to clarify the “condition” under which 36 Rafale jets were sold to India in 2016, and “the choice of its Indian partner, Reliance.” It tweeted:
#Rafale in #India : we filed a complaint with the national financial prosecutor's office in Paris in order to clarify the conditions surrounding the sale of 36 Rafale plane by #Dassault Aviation to India in 2016. https://t.co/5AAO0IDHnz
— Sherpa (@Asso_Sherpa) November 23, 2018
A Mediapart report stated that Sherpa’s request for investigation talks about the grant of “undue advantages, influence peddling, and complicity of these offences and money laundering” by Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation and the French government.
A hot potato
Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court had reserved its order on pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal.
Last month, a Mediapart report had said Dassault had told its workers it was “imperative and mandatory” to choose Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as its offsets partner.
It was referring to the decision of the company to transfer its assembly line to produce the Falcon business jets to the joint venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd facility being built in Nagpur. Dassault had had to explain to its workers why it was not creating jobs for French labourers. It had identified Reliance as “counterpartie” or “counterpart” in the document.
The Mediapart report had said: “At Dassault Aviation… the alliance with Ambani was indeed presented as a ‘counterpart’ to the Rafale sales contract. Dassault Aviation’s deputy chief executive officer, Loik Segalen, made this clear on 11 May 2017 during a presentation of the Nagpur Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture to the staff representatives.
“‘It was imperative and mandatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this counterpart, in order to get the export contract from India,’ said the no.2 (of) the group, according to elected staff,” the report added.
But Julien Boussiou, the South Asia correspondent of French newspaper Le Monde, interpreted the Dassault comment in the document differently. In a series of tweets, Boussiou said Dassault was required to communicate important business decisions to trade unions in keeping with French labour laws.
“In May 2017, Dassault informed French trade unions about the construction of a plant in Nagpur, and explained to them why that plant could not be built in France (because of the offset),” he wrote.
Boussiou said the Mediapart report only pertained to the explanation Dassault gave workers on why the facility in question was being built in India. The explanation, he added, was “about French laws, not so much about Anil Ambani”.
Mediapart had also quoted former French President Francois Hollande as saying the Indian government had suggested that Dassault should take Reliance as its offsets partner in the Rafale deal. But Hollande subsequently told news wire AFP in Canada that he was “not aware” if the Modi government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence, and that “the partners chose themselves”.
This had led to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley writing that Hollande’s truth on Rafale cannot have two versions.
Dassault has insisted it “freely chose to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group”.