NEW DELHI: A judge has been appointed to lead a judicial investigation in France into alleged corruption and favouritism in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with India, the French media has reported. The judicial investigation has been ordered by France’s national financial prosecutors’ office following investigative website Mediapart’s fresh reports in April of alleged wrongdoings in the deal as well as a complaint filed by French NGO Sherpa that specialises in financial crime.
French news agency AFP also reported that the PNF had tasked a judge to investigate corruption suspicions in the deal. “The highly sensitive probe into the inter-governmental deal signed off in 2016 was formally opened on June 14,” a media report said.
In April, Mediapart, citing an investigation by the country’s anti-corruption agency, reported that Dassault Aviation had paid about one million Euros to an Indian middleman. Dassault Aviation had rejected the allegations of corruption, saying no violations were reported in the frame of the contract.
Based on the reports by Mediapart, Sherpa, which works in the field giving support to victims of financial crimes, filed a complaint in April with the PNF, requesting the opening of a judicial investigation for corruption, favoritism and various financial offences that are likely to have occurred in the sale of 36 Rafale aircraft manufactured by aviation major Dassault Aviation.
Sherpa said its first complaint was filed with PNF in October 2018 to bring to attention to the facts which, “in our opinion, should have justified the opening of an investigation.” The NGO said it was based on a complaint filed by former Indian union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan with the Central Bureau of Investigation.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of India had dismissed a batch of review petitions seeking a probe into the government’s purchase of the 36 fighter jets, saying there was no ground to order an FIR in the case.