By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Main opposition Congress on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the Modi government for conducting an operation to “cover-up” corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and demanded to know why it did not initiate investigation into the role of a middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him. It said the fresh French media report on Rafale has once again exposed the corruption, kickbacks and collusion in Rafale deal.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters here, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera alleged that the BJP government sacrificed national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores to the exchequer.
The latest revelations in “Operation Cover-up” reveal the dubious nexus between Modi Govt-CBI-ED to bury the Rafale corruption he said.
French online journal Mediapart in fresh revelations in a report has exposed how middleman Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence, said the Congress spokesman.
Mediapart has alleged that fake invoices were made so as to enable French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least €7.5 million in kickbacks to a middleman to help it secure the ₹59,000 crore deal with India for 36 Rafale fighter jets. The online journal published these alleged fake invoices.
Reacting on this, Khera said “Each revelation in the murky Rafale affair for the last 5 years, every single allegation and each piece of the puzzle leads right up to the highest echelons of power in the Modi Govt.
The Rafale scam is not a so-called ₹60-₹80 Cr commissions payment. It is the biggest Defence scam and only an independent investigation will reveal the scam, asserted Khera .
“Congress- UPA Govt had negotiated the purchase of one Rafale fighter aircraft including Transfer of Technology for ₹526.10 Cr, after an international tender. Modi Govt bought the same Rafale fighter aircraft (off the shelf, without any tender) for ₹1670 Cr, and without Transfer of Technology to India. The difference in cost of 36 jets is approximately ₹41,205 Cr” , he added.
The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave a clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Khera claimed, citing the Mediapart report.
He said Congress wanted to know if the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had recovered the “Secret Defence Ministry Documents” from the middlemen in the raid on March 26, 2019, including the benchmark price document of August 10, 2015, the record of discussions by the INT of Defence Ministry, the excel sheet containing the calculations made by Defence Ministry, and Eurofighter’s counter offer of 20% discount to the Indian government.
The spokesman asked if one of the documents that had been seized had been the note which had been sent to Dassault by Sushen Gupta dated June 24, 2014, where he had offered a meeting with the ‘Political High Command’.
“This is nothing short of endangering National Security, sedition and a gross violation of Official’s Secrets Act. Why didn’t the ED pursue this evidence to investigate the scam? Why did the Modi government not take action against Dassault, the political executive or the Defence Ministry officers who leaked the documents?” pointed out Khera.
“The ‘operation cover-up’ by the Modi government to bury the melting pot of corruption, kickbacks and collusion in the Rafale deal is once again exposed,” he said at a press conference.
The Congress leader also alleged that Prime Minister Modi abrogated the anti-corruption clauses – “no bribery, no gift, no influence, no commission, no middlemen”. These were mandatory clauses in defence contracts according to the defence procurement procedure and were part of the tender by the UPA for purchase of 126 fighter aircraft, he said.
“Were the anti-corruption clauses deleted to escape responsibility from bribery and commission to be paid in the Rafale deal? Why was the deletion of anti-corruption clauses approved by the prime minister and the Modi government in September 2016, despite the defence ministry’s insistence upon including it in the inter-governmental agreement in July 2015,” asked Khera. He wanted to know if this was the real reason that CBI-ED refused to probe the corruption in Rafale deal since October 11, 2018, till date.
On October 4, 2018, two former BJP Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and a senior lawyer submitted a complaint to the director of the CBI citing massive corruption in the Rafale deal.
On October 11, 2018, the government of Mauritius, through its attorney general, supplied documents to the CBI regarding alleged payment of commission connected to the Rafale deal, Khera said.
But, on October 23, 2018, CBI Director Alok Verma was removed in a “midnight coup” after the CBI headquarters was raided by the Delhi Police, Khera asserted, alleging that this was part of a concerted conspiracy to bury the Rafale ghost through the CBI.