A big twist in France's multi-billion-dollar Rafael deal with India – signed in 2016 – for 36 French multirole fighter jets has sparked controversy after a new judicial probe was launched in France on 14 June amid “corruption” and “favouritism” charges.
According to reports published by French investigative website Mediapart, France's National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) has appointed a judge to investigate allegations of political corruption in the deal.
The new probe is the outcome of several news reports made by Mediapart journalist Yann Philipp in April – he said the first complaint was “buried” in 2019 by a former PNF chief.
Following this, a complaint was filed by a French NGO called "Sherpa" which works for the victims of financial crimes. It urged the PNF to open a judicial investigation into corruption, favouritism, and various financial offences thought to muddy the sale of 36 aircraft manufactured by aviation major Dassault Aviation.
@mediapart also reveals the financial gift granted by Dassault to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, which is suspected to have obtained the Rafale industrial partership thanks to Ambani’s close relationship with Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi (2/4). #RafalePapers— Yann Philippin (@yphilippin) July 2, 2021
In its latest report, Mediapart said that “the criminal investigation opened on June 14 and led by an independent magistrate, an investigating judge, will, among other elements, examine questions surrounding the action of former French President Francois Hollande, who was in office when the Rafale deal was inked, and current French President Emmanuel Macron, who was at that time Hollande’s economy and finance minister, as well as the then defence minister, now foreign affairs minister, Jean Yves Le Drian."
Attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress politician Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that the Prime Minister Modi-led government purchased the jets at an inflated cost before raising the alarm over the offset contract given to a private firm instead of the public-sector's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
“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,” Surjewala said.
"The scandalous expose of Rafale scam involving corruption, treason, loss to public exchequer has finally been uncovered," he added.
Surjewala pointed out that the French government deleted the anti-corruption clause – he therefore urged PM Modi to order a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.
While there's no immediate reaction from the Indian government or the BJP on this latest development, several people have shared their views on social media.
A French judge has been appointed to lead a judicial investigation into alleged corruption & favouritism in the 7.8 billion euro #RafaleDeal. @RahulGandhi has always been vocal about a probe into the #RafaleScam. No matter how much BJP tries to bury it, the truth will always win!— Dr. Shama Mohamed (@drshamamohd) July 3, 2021
France will investigate two French Presidents, after media pressure.— Rachit Seth (@rachitseth) July 3, 2021
Indian media will blank out the opposition party's press conferences on alleged corruption by Indian PM. #RafaleScam
I have said it a million times before but one day it will be fully established after independent investigations that #RafaleScam is an open and shut case of malfeasance.— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) July 3, 2021
Why would anyone give a bankrupt businessman a sensitive national security related contract?
Macron as French Judge Opens Criminal Investigation Into Rafale Deal With India— SHIKHA (@Shikha__Rawat) July 3, 2021
Mean while Indian supreme court is like - scam?! What?! Where?! Petition dismissed!#राफेल_का_सच_छुपेगा_नहीं #RafaleScam pic.twitter.com/TR2ZSt5L3Q