Mediapart accuses in three articles published between Sunday and Thursday the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) and the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) for having “buried” suspicions of corruption relating to the sale of Rafale planes to India, denouncing “a matter of state”.
The news site claims that the former PNF chief Éliane Houlette refused in June 2019 to investigate the sale of Rafale in September 2016 to India, against the advice of her deputy that she had tasked with analyzing a report from October 2018 from the NGO Sherpa denouncing suspicions of corruption and favoritism. The PNF, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, Ms. Houlette’s lawyer, and his ex-deputy, Mr. Jean-Yves Lourgouilloux, declined to comment.
“We do not open on simple unsubstantiated suspicions”, replied Ms. Houlette. at Paris Match in July 2020. “We must weigh things well, preserve the interests of France, the functioning of the institutions”. “This file was closed for lack of infringement” by Ms. Houlette, replied the PNF, refusing to comment on the supposed internal discrepancy at the time.
“Millions of euros in kickbacks”
Mediapart further assures that the AFA has not reported to justice to have “discovered” that “just after the signing of the Rafale contract, the aircraft manufacturer (Dassault) agreed to pay 1 million euros to an intermediary, Sushen Gupta, indicted in India in another arms sales case. “The aircraft manufacturer justifies this payment by purchasing models of Rafale with doubtful reality”, specifies the site. The AFA declined to comment.
Mediapart also claims that this same intermediary helped Dassault to close the sale by “obtaining confidential documents from the Indian Ministry of Defense” on the proposal of a competitor who “helped Dassault to revise its offer downwards and win in fine the contract ”. The intermediary would have been rewarded with “millions of euros in kickbacks” of which “a part (…) could have been paid in the form of bribes” to Indian officials. In a press release Thursday, Dassault assured that “many controls are carried out by official bodies including the AFA. No breach has been reported, in particular under (this) contract ”.
Le Drian denies any “pressure” from India
At the end of 2018, Sherpa asked the PNF to investigate the suspicions surrounding this sale, denouncing in particular the choice of the Indian partner, Reliance, the company of a businessman close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the time of the sale, the company had financed a film co-produced by Julie Gayet, companion of the then president, François Hollande. The latter had defended himself from any conflict of interest, asserting that France had “no choice” of Dassault’s Indian partner.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, current French Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Defense under François Hollande, had stated several times that Paris had not been subjected to “any pressure” from New Delhi. Le Monde revealed mid-April 2019 that France had canceled in 2015 a tax adjustment targeting Reliance when the sale was being negotiated. The case sparked a strong controversy and an investigation in India.
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