The acquisition of Rafale sparked a fresh controversy yet again. The dust from the previous controversy was starting to settle & a new allegation took the entire case of Rafale over by storm. This time French Media agency named Mediapart has highlighted irregularities in the financial accounts of Dassault Aviation. Now since matter can get little political over here so in an attempt to stay unbiased, we’ll just put some important facts on the table & will not be concluding anything. We’ll also discuss the possibility of Mediapart lobbying for the US. Here are some important observations on this case that no one else told you about.
It was actually the French Government’s Anti-Corruption Agency (French: Agence Française Anticorruption, hereinafter “AFA”) which was auditing the financial transactions of Dassault Aviation, parent company of Rafale fighter jet. AFA found that a transaction from 2017 worth 508 thousand Euros (or about half a million) had the title “Gift to the Clients”. Now since “Gift” sounds like bribery, AFA investigated more on the matter even though it makes less sense to record bribes in official financial transactions of the company.
Dassault stated that the transaction was a gift of a 50 scale model of Rafale Jets to the Indian Air Force, procured from a Gurgaon based company named Defsys Solutions. The company is owned by Mr Sushen Gupta, who was also accused of money laundering in the AgustaWestland chopper scam. Though Dassault could state the details of the deal but couldn’t produce proof of the deliveries or pictures of the replica models, which raised an alert to the French media house called Mediapart.
Now with Mediapart in picture, things escalated very quickly. They suspected that this was a bogus purchase designed to suppress hidden financial transaction. In a strong move, Mediapart accused Dassault Aviation of paying 1 million euros to an Indian middleman (Sushen Gupta from Defsys Solutions) of which 50% of the amount has already been paid in 2017. It is also important to note that it was not the Anti-Corruption Agency AFA that raised the concern to French prosecution for legal action, but it was Mediapart which deemed it appropriate to raise the issue.
Here is a very important turn in the story. According to experts, Edwy Plenel, the publisher of Mediapart has worked with CIA (US agency) in the 1980s as claimed by former French President François Mitterrand. Now since Indian Prime Minister might agree for 36-72 additional Rafales through an Inter-governmental deal in his upcoming visit to France in May 2021, this would lead to complete scrapping of the MMRCA 2.0 competition in which three US fighters are competing (FA-18 E/F, F-21, & F-15 EX) among eight to make their way into Indian Air Force. Experts believe that Mediapart (basically Edwy Plenel) might be lobbying for USA (as he has past connections with US) by bringing out such controversy just before Indian PM’s visit to France to destabilise Indo French relations & create a political pressure on Indian Government to reject any additional Rafales & hence increasing the chances of American fighters to win the MMRCA 2.0 tender for 114 fighter jets.
Coming on the Indian side, Defsys solutions has completely ruled out Mediapart’s accusation & said that all 50 models have been delivered. They further released a statement and tax invoices stating that the allegations were totally baseless. Delivery challans, E-way bills and GST returns related to the delivery of 50 replica models of Rafale have been duly filed with the relevant authorities. These models in reality do exist & are said to be on static display in different Air Commands, Airbases, Air Headquarters in New Delhi & even in front of IAF Chief’s official residence. Sushen Gupta’s counsel was quoted saying, “It is preposterous to suggest that a private individual could have influenced a government to government transaction for the acquisition of 36 Rafale Jets”.
If we go into the mathematics of the alleged deal, each of the 50 replica scale models of Rafale would cost about 20,000 euros or about 17 lakh INR. To compare, the CATS Warrior 1:1 model presented in Aero India 2021 costed about 5 lakh to manufacture as quoted by a popular YouTube channel Alpha Defence. The CATS Warrior model moreover didn’t have much contours & details. Now if we see the Rafale’s replica model, it is highly detailed & accurate with proportions & contours. Considering the 17 Lakh price point, it does look pricy but certainly doesn’t look out of proportion to fund a scam worth 8 Cr.
Another interesting & different revelation by Mediapart is that Mr. Sushen Gupta obtained crucial documents on the Indian negotiating team involved in the Rafale Deal & supplied them to Dassault Aviation which helped the to price the aircraft better. Defsys denied this claim too.
Way ahead in this entire story could be the Anti-Corruption Agency, AFA if deems it appropriate, should submit an official report to the French Justice system who should do a thorough investigation. Only once the French government is handling the case officially, the Government of India can have a talk with France & investigate from our end. Till then, as responsible citizen we shouldn’t form opinions as someone to be guilty or innocent based on a random media portal’s article.
Team AviatorsBuzz stands neutral & is only responsible to bring in the facts for its viewers without any opinion on the same as our expertise lies in Aviation & not multilateral politics & when it comes to Aviation, there is hardly a better aircraft on the eastern hemisphere other than Rafale. There is no doubt on the capability of the aircraft & due to such controversies if the deliveries or orders are delayed, the only party to get affected is the Indian Air Force who is in urgent need of fighters.
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