A French judge has been tasked with investigating the controversial 2016 multi-billion-dollar sale of Rafale fighter jets to India on “corruption” suspicions, the French national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) said on Friday, per media reports.
The 7.8-billion-euro ($9.3-billion) deal for 36 planes between the Government of India and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault has long been mired in corruption allegations.
The PNF had initially refused to investigate the sale, prompting French investigative website Mediapart to accuse it and the French Anti-corruption Agency of “burying” suspicions surrounding the September 2016 deal.
In April, Mediapart claimed “millions of euros of hidden commissions” were given to a go-between who helped Dassault conclude the sale, of which “some… could have been given as bribes” to Indian officials.
According to the media reports, the criminal investigation will “examine questions surrounding the actions” of former French president François Hollande, who was in office when the Rafale deal was inked, current French president Emmanuel Macron, who was at the time Hollande’s economy and finance minister, and foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was then holding the defence portfolio.
India placed the order for the Rafale jets in September 2016 as an emergency purchase through a government-to-government deal, however, the deal became controversial when the Opposition led by Congress Party accused the current Govt of much higher prices per Jet.
The Govt has categorically denied such allegations.
In November 2019, India’s Supreme Court after hearing the public interest litigation over the deal said, ‘Nothing is wrong in the deal’.
Note: The story will be updated when we hear the latest update from the Govt