Mediapart's investigation on "Rafale papers" triggered a judicial investigation in France in July.
French plane-maker Dassault paid 12.8 million euros (nearly Rs 110 crores) in bribes to a middleman to help secure the sale of Rafale fighter jets to India and Indian agencies failed to investigate it despite access to incriminating documents, French portal Mediapart has alleged in a new report. The online journal has been investigating allegations of corruption in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal.
According to the Mediapart report, the alleged payments were made from 2002 to 2012, when the BJP-led NDA-1 and later the Congress-led UPA was in power. NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of these documents and has reached out to the CBI for comment.
Mediapart has published alleged false invoices that it says enabled Dassault to pay secret commissions to alleged middleman Sushen Gupta. "Despite the existence of these documents, the Indian federal police has decided not to pursue the affair and has not begun an investigation," the portal says. According to its report, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have had proof since October 2018 that Dassault paid kickbacks to Sushen Gupta to secure the sale of Rafale jets.
The evidence, says the report, is present in confidential documents that surfaced in another corruption case being investigated by the two agencies - the scandal involving the supply of VVIP choppers by AgustaWestland.
The invoices and bank statements obtained by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate show that Sushen Gupta's shell company received a series of payments from Dassault starting 2002, extending for close to a decade.
According to Mediapart, 914,488 euros was paid between 2002 and 2006. The BJP-led NDA-1 was in power till 2004.
Another tranche of 7.5 million euros was paid from 2007 to 2012, says Mediapart.
The Congress-led UPA took power in 2004 and ruled till 2014, after which it was ousted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. The 36-jet Rafale deal was signed on September 23, 2016, after a seven-year exercise involving 126 aircraft for the Indian Air Force did not materialise during the UPA rule.
Mediapart's investigation on "Rafale papers" triggered a judicial investigation in France in July into allegations of corruption, influence peddling and favouritism.
Sushen Gupta is accused of receiving bribes from AgustaWestland through a shell company registered in Mauritius, Interstellar Technologies. The Mauritian authorities agreed to send documents related to the company to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, to facilitate investigations.
The documents were sent to the CBI on October 11, 2018, just a week after the agency received an official complaint alleging corruption in the Rafale deal. "However, the CBI decided not to open an investigation, even though just seven days after that corruption complaint was filed it received information proving that secret commissions had indeed been paid," Mediapart said.
According to the portal, this is when they discovered that Sushen Gupta also acted as an intermediary for Dassault over the Rafale deal.
The report says Gupta's Interstellar Technologies "received at least 7.5 million euros from the French aviation firm between 2007 and 2012, thanks to IT contracts that were clearly overbilled, and from which most of the money was discreetly sent to Mauritius using a system of alleged false invoices. Some of these invoices even got the name of the French company wrong, referring to "Dassult" Aviation.
Mediapart says the Mauritian documents cover the period of the bid process that was eventually won by Dassault (2007 - 2012), when the Congress was in power. "Whereas the complaint filed on October 4, 2018, targets suspicious activity that took place from 2015, when the deal was being finalised on the authority of the current BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi," says the site.
Dassault and the alleged middleman soon set up a new and even more opaque financial route to channel payments. The aviation company started buying overbilled IT services through the Singapore-based company Interdev, which was portrayed as the "system integrator for Dassault in Asia", says Mediapart, adding that it was simply a shell company without any real activity, and was managed by a front man for the Gupta family, currently believed to be in South Africa.