New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) The Congress on Friday questioned the Narendra Modi-led government over the explosive revelations made by a French news portal in the Rafale deal alleging that there was ‘massive corruption’ and ‘loss to public exchequer of at least Rs 21,075 crore.
The remarks came after a French news portal mediapart.fr in a three series investigation claimed that it was in possession of documents that showed Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale jet, and its industrial partner Thales, a defence electronics firm, paid a “middleman” several million euros in “secret commissions” in connection with the Rs 59,000 crore deal for 36 jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Addressing a press conference here Congress national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “The scandalous expose of facts and string of documents have uncovered a concerted collusion to defraud the public exchequer as also massive corruption.”
Firing salvos at the BJP-led central government, Surjewala said, “Isn’t it correct that the ‘Indian Negotiating Team’ (INT) on August 10, 2015 arrived at a benchmark cost of Euro 5.06 billion for 36 Rafale fighter jets including weaponry package etc. Is it now not proved by the document released by the French News Portal, who has accessed Enforcement Directorate (ED) documents recovered from the middlemen?”
He questioned that isn’t it correct that the price of Euro 7.87 billion for 36 aircraft was decided by Dassault Aviation in its internal meeting dated January 20, 2016.
He asked is it not correct that the Indian team had rejected this price calculation of Euro 7.87 billion for 36 aircraft, the very next day and isn’t it correct that on September 23, 2016, the price of Euro 7.87 billion for 36 aircraft was accepted by the BJP government and the contract awarded to Dassault.
Surjewala said, “What was the reason for additional payment of Rs 21,075 crore, causing loss to the public exchequer?”
The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.
The Congress had raised the issue of corruption in the Rafale deal ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The government had rejected all the charges levelled by the opposition.
Surjewala also questioned whether the ED recovered the “secret defence ministry documents” from the middlemen in the raid on March 26, 2019, including the ‘benchmark price document’ and other documents.