The three-part investigation report released by France's online journal Mediapart disputes the claims of both the French and Indian governments that there were no intermediaries or bribes in the Rafale deal. New revelations say that Dassault 'gifted' Sushen Gupta, accused of corruption and black money laundering in the AgustaWestland deal, 10 lakh euros (Rs 8.75 crores) following the signing of the deal. With the new discovery, the corruption allegations which were earlier submerged without investigation in both countries have re-emerged stronger.
Demands have emerged to investigate the mysteries that were never resolved and doubts that were never cleared fully. Even as Sushen Gupta and the French officials deny the new allegations, questions remain. Mediapart investigations discover that the French anti-corruption agency AFA themselves had raised doubts on the heavy amount given by Dassault to the intermediary. The company's explanation then was that the money was for an Indian company that made 50 large models of the Rafale jets. But they did not respond as to why it was in the records as 'a gift.' There is no evidence - not even a photo - for the models made. Mediapart finds it dubious that the AFA did not make a case out of these. In India too, there are several unanswered questions surrounding the Rafale deal. One was that the deal that was pegged at a reasonable rate by the previous government became a loss-making deal for India after the Modi government took charge. During Modi's France visit in 2015, the media asked him if Rafale would be one of the matters of discussion. Although Jayasankar, the Foreign affairs secretary at the time, denied, three days later, the nation was shocked to hear both prime ministers had signed the deal. Even the Department of Defence had their reservations about the deal. The Supreme Court rejected pleas for an investigation without going into details, and also rejected all pleas against the decision.
Rafale deal re-emerged in news due to the discrepancies within. As per the deal signed in September 2016, 36 Rafale jets would be built for Rs 59,000 crores. Anti-corruption provisions were waived in the contract. Instead, an additional requirement was made that distributors must spend half the money in India. Thus, the Indian company HAL which should have been given the construction work, was replaced by Anil Ambani's Reliance Infrastructure. The then French President Hollande revealed that there was no other option as the Government of India itself requested it. Now Mediapart's investigation report adds that Sushen Gupta received documents from the Defence Ministry. Their report has also referred to the Indian Enforcement Directorate's case files. ED allegedly knew that those accused of the helicopter deal were intermediaries in the Rafale deal. Mediapart has added that there is more information to put out.
This is now not just about one deal. If the new evidence and allegations are baseless, the government must suitably prove them so, with facts. Otherwise, we would have to say that the nation under Modi is going in the opposite direction from being corruption-free. The global corruption index published by Transparency International puts India as a 'corrupt country.' Even in the Rafale deal, not only is no information available under the RTI, but even the Supreme Court has rejected a full investigation citing 'national security' concerns. Alok Varma who sought to investigate this was removed from his post of CBI director in a midnight order. CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who headed the bench that declared there is nothing to investigate in the Rafale deal, was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha member after retirement. The ED, which shows great vigilance in politically sensitive cases, has not moved even after the Mediapart revelations. All of this not just points to corruption in the higher levels, but shows that corruption has been institutionalised in the ruling classes. The issue is not the lack of anti-corruption laws or investigative agencies. They are in plenty. If these were investigated, free of political interests, this corruption could be checked. But who will investigate? Who will make them investigate?