New Delhi: A massive political fight has been reignited by French portal Mediapart’s new report on alleged kickbacks paid between 2007 and 2012 to a middleman involved in the Rafale deal, and on the CBI allegedly failing to investigate these allegations despite receiving documents.
The ruling BJP today attacked the Congress over alleged corruption on its watch before 2014. At the same time, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led their party in accusing the government of a “cover-up” on corruption.
“INC (Indian National Congress) means ‘I need Commission’. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Robert Vadra, all say ‘I need commission’,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
“Let Rahul Gandhi answer from Italy – why did you and your party try to spread lies about Rafale all these years? Now it has been revealed that their own government was in power in 2007 to 2012 when commissions were paid, in which a middleman’s name has also come up,” Mr Patra said.
The Congress said: “The latest revelations in Operation Cover-up reveal the dubious nexus between (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government-CBI-Enforcement Directorate to bury the Rafale Corruption.”
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi also posted tweets sharing news articles on the Rafale report.
Mediapart has said in its latest report that French plane-maker Dassault paid at least 7.5 million euros (nearly ₹ 650 million) in bribes to a middleman to help secure the sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets to India and that Indian agencies like the CBI and Enforcement Directorate failed to investigate it despite the presence of documents.
Mediapart, which been investigating allegations of corruption in the ₹ 59,000 crore Rafale deal, said the bulk of the alleged payments were made before 2013.
NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of these documents and has reached out to the CBI for comment.
Mediapart has published alleged false invoices that it says enabled Dassault to pay secret commissions to alleged middleman Sushen Gupta. The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have had proof since October 2018, but have failed to act, it said.
The invoices and bank statements obtained by the CBI also show that Sushen Gupta’s shell company received 914,488 euros between 2002 and 2006 – till 2004, the BJP-led NDA-1 was in power.
The Congress-led UPA was in power between 2004 and 2014. The 36-jet Rafale deal was signed on September 23, 2016, after a seven-year exercise involving 126 aircraft for the Indian Air Force did not materialise during the UPA regime.
Mediapart’s investigation on “Rafale papers” triggered a judicial investigation in France in July into allegations of corruption, influence peddling and favouritism.
Sushen Gupta is accused of receiving bribes from AgustaWestland through a shell company registered in Mauritius, Interstellar Technologies, to seal a deal to supply 12 VVIP choppers for India.
To facilitate investigations, Mauritius agreed to send documents related to the company to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. The documents were sent to the CBI on October 11, 2018.
According to the portal, this is when it was discovered that Sushen Gupta also acted as an intermediary for Dassault over the Rafale deal. The report says Gupta’s 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 to “Dassult” Aviation.
Mediapart says the Mauritian documents cover the period of the bid process that was eventually won by Dassault (2007 – 2012), when the Congress was in power. “Whereas the complaint filed on October 4, 2018, targets suspicious activity that took place from 2015, when the deal was being finalised on the authority of the current BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” says the site.