Five Key Questions on the Rafale Deal Which the Modi Govt Must Answer

The Modi government had enough evidence to question the deal with Dassault and its retention as preferred partner. Why was the Rafale deal signed in Paris just two weeks later?

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Spinmeisters for the Modi government claim that recent revelations by French investigative portal Mediapart point to corruption and kickbacks in the previous UPA regime. However, five key questions emerge that the Modi government must answer.

1. Why was the anti-corruption clause removed if there was proof of kickbacks?

The Modi government insists Rafale middleman Sushen Gupta got all commission payments during the UPA’s tenure, when the deal did not go through – as is borne out by the Mediapart investigation. If that is the case, and there were clear signs of kickbacks, why did the PMO insist on the removal of the crucial anti-corruption clause from the standard agreement just before the Modi Cabinet approved the new Rafale deal?

2. Same middleman, same modus operandi?

Mediapart earlier reported that the same middleman, Sushen Gupta, continued dealing with Dassault after 2015 and even supplied price-sensitive Defence Ministry documents.

France’s anti-corruption agency, Agence Française Anticorruption (AFA), also found that Dassault Aviation had paid €1 million to an Indian company for producing Rafale replicas which were never delivered. Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had dismissed reports of payoffs to middlemen in the €7.87 billion deal as “completely baseless”.

Also read: Nearly Seven Decades Before Rafale, the Unheralded Arrival of Another Dassault Aircraft

3. What exactly was Sushen Gupta’s role in Dassault’s dealings with India post 2014?

The latest revelations prompt an obvious question: Was Sushen Gupta still a key factor in negotiations and proceedings after 2014? Why have contracts between Dassault and him through 2015-2016 been kept confidential?

Documents obtained by Indian detectives show that in 2015, during the final negotiations, Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents revealing the stance of Indian negotiators, and how they calculated the price of the aircraft. Neither Dassault nor Sushen Gupta have commented, but perhaps the Indian government would like to explain how these papers found their way to a bidder, compromising the entire process.

4. Why no CBI investigation?

Mediapart’s investigations reveal that the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have had proof since October 2018 that Dassault paid at least €7.5 million (just under Rs 650 million) in secret commissions to Sushen Gupta, presumably to secure what eventually turned out to be a €7.87 billion deal to sell 36 Rafale fighters to India.

The Attorney-General’s office in Mauritius sent the relevant documents to the CBI director on October 11, 2018. A week earlier, on October 4, the CBI had received an official complaint alleging corruption in the Rafale deal, after lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie of the BJP, moved the Supreme Court. Since the Sinha- Shourie complaint targeted suspicious activity in 2015, why was the deal being finalised when there was clear evidence of kickbacks from Dassault? On October 23, 2018, just 10 days receiving the documents, CBI director Alok Verma was divested of his role in a dramatic overnight upheaval.

Why hasn’t the CBI investigated charges of kickbacks despite receiving evidence, and did the Rafale docket play a role in the removal of the CBI director?

5. Why was Dassault not blacklisted but retained as preferred partner?

A CAG report found that a team of Independent External Monitors (IMs) stated on March 27, 2015 that Dassault’s proposal was non-compliant, incomplete and not in the prescribed format. Publishing the findings would have blacklisted Dassault.

The Modi government had enough evidence to question the deal with Dassault and its retention as preferred partner. Why was the Rafale deal signed in Paris just two weeks later? If kickbacks were received under the previous UPA regime, why wasn’t Dassault blacklisted?