A French anti-corruption NGO has filed a complaint with the office of French National Financial Prosecutor demanding an investigation into alleged corruption in the Rs 59,000 crore-Rafale deal, signed between India and France in September 2016.
The complaint highlights “potential acts of corruption, granting of undue advantages, influence peddling, complicity of these offenses and money laundering” by Government of France and Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter aircraft. The complaint was filed by Sherpa, an NGO which claims to “fight against illicit financial flows; corruption, money laundering, tax evasion” and “on ill-gotten assets”, French newsportal Mediapart reported on Friday.
The complaint was lodged at the end of October with the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, seeking an investigation into the circumstances under which 36 combat aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation were sold by France to India in 2016. Sherpa also sought a probe into the choice of Dassault’s Indian offset partner, Anil Ambani’s Reliance group, which had no “experience in the manufacture of fighter jets” and was only registered “twelve days” before the announcement of the finalisation of the contract, Mediapart reported. “Everything indicates that it is likely to be a very serious matter,” said William Bourdon, the founder of Sherpa told Mediapart, adding that “the information communicated to the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office should lead to the opening of an investigation as soon as possible “.
It is not clear if the Prosecutor’s Office has already opened an investigation into the complaint made by Sherpa. Emails sent by The Indian Express to the media officer at the Prosecutor’s office did not get any response till the time of going for publication. The French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office had earlier insisted that it “reacts when a case merits attention”. It was created in early 2014 to combat corruption and complex financial fraud, and has dealt with many highly publicised cases.
In October 2016, the Prosecutor’s office had opened an investigation into the sale of Scorpene class submarines by France to Brazil, a contract signed when Nicolas Sarkozy was the French President. In January 2017, it awarded a two-year suspended prison sentence against Senator Serge Dassault who had been charged with money-laundering and tax fraud.