Mediapart’s revelations trigger political slugfest between BJP, Congress

After French investigative portal Mediapart alleged that the Rafale jets maker paid EUR 7.5 million to a middleman during the UPA's regime, a political slugfest has been triggered between Congress and BJP in India

Rafale jets
The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes imported from Russia. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Common

Referring to the claims, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked his party colleagues not to be afraid of fighting against the “corrupt” central government as truth was with them in every step, media reports said.

Gandhi tweeted in Hindi, “When the truth is with you in every step, then what is there to worry about? My Congress colleagues – keep fighting like this against the corrupt central government. Don’t stop, don’t get tired, don’t be afraid,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, using the hashtag “#RafaleScam”.

Mediapart reported that Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Rafale fighter aircraft, had paid EUR 7.5 million to “intermediary” Sushen Gupta’s Mauritius company Interstellar Technologies between 2007 and 2012.

Publishing  receipts allegedly raised by firms linked to Gupta, Mediapart claimed that the office of the Attorney General of Mauritius sent them to the CBI on October 11, 2018 — it also shared an image of the letter from the Mauritius AG’s office to the CBI.

"This was how Indian detectives discovered that Sushen Gupta had also acted as an intermediary for Dassault Aviation over the Rafale deal. His Mauritian company Interstellar Technologies received at least 7.5 million euros from the French aviation firm between 2007 and 2012, thanks to IT contracts that were clearly overbilled, and from which most of the money was discreetly sent to Mauritius using a system of alleged false invoices. Some of these invoices even got the name of the French company wrong, referring instead to ‘Dassult Aviation’,” Mediapart said in its report.

Following the report by Mediapart, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had launched a scathing attack on the Congress leadership, saying that the INC (Indian National Congress) should be renamed “I Need Commission”. He also alleged that the Congress’ dissatisfaction with the cut on offer was behind the failed negotiations when it was in power.

Seeking Gandhi’s response to the fresh revelation by Mediapart, Patra said, “He should respond to this from Italy.”

He further alleged that corruption has become “homeless” after the BJP came to power, and its address is now 10 Janpath, referring to the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The Congress hit back at the BJP, saying that the government has launched “operation cover up” and demanded to know as to why it had not probed the entire episode so far.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said that his party has been seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal, and asked as to why the government has not agreed to this.

In the past, Dassault Aviation and Ministry of Defence have rejected allegations of any corruption in the Rafale contract. In December 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a bunch of petitions demanding a court-monitored investigation into the deal. It said there was “no occasion to doubt the (decision-making) process” leading to the award of the contract. In November 2019, it rejected review petitions in the matter.