Rafale deal: French NGO files complaint against Dassault

Paris: French non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sherpa has filed a complaint against aviation giant Dassault to clarify the conditions under which the Rafale deal was made with India in 2016.

The complaint, which has been lodged with the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, further sought details over Dassault’s choice to have Reliance group as a partner.

The complaint was lodged on October 26 this year and it “follows the complaint lodged on the 4th of October 2018 by a former Indian Minister and an anti-corruption lawyer with the Central Bureau of Investigation in New Delhi, against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “abuse of authority” and “grant of undue advantages” in connection with the sale of Rafale, and the facts revealed by Mediapart and Sherpa’s investigation,” according to an official press release of Sherpa.

“Anil Ambani, Narendra Modi’s close associate, Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, and the former Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar have also been targeted in the complaint filed in New Delhi for ‘complicity’,” said Sherpa while referring to a complaint filed by former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan on October 4 in New Delhi.

“Sherpa expects the National Public Prosecutor’s Office to promptly investigate the seriousness of the facts and the presumptions on the reported offences: potential corruption, grant of undue advantages, trading in influence, complicity of these offences, concealment of corruption and laundering of these offences,” the statement further mentioned.

Founder of Sherpa William Bourdon said, “France cannot do less than India. Cooperation between both countries should be rapidly established, as it is always the case with international grand corruption investigation. Moreover, the hearing of great witnesses is possible and desirable.”

However, serious doubts regarding Sherpa’s credibility have risen as reports accusing the French NGO chief’s involvement in “meddling in African politics” have surfaced on International Policy Digest. The website has laid grave charges against Bourdon and alleged that the NGO is notorious for “destroying the reputation of (specifically) large-scale and vulnerable companies to gain “media attention and funds” in exchange”.

Despite the claims, Sherpa’s announcement of the filed complaint comes at a time when the Rafale deal controversy has been on the boil.

On November 14 this year, India’s Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on the filed petitions that demanded a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal in which the Indian government bought 36 ready-to-fly jets in a government-to-government deal with France.

Leaders in the Indian opposition have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal, with main opposition party Congress president Rahul Gandhi recently challenging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in a debate over the details of the deal.