In September 2016, the Narendra Modi government placed an order with the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. The delivery is set to be completed by 2022.
The $8.7 billion Rafale deal involved a payment worth $1.17 million (one million euros) to an Indian middleman, which planemaker Dassault has not been able to explain to the French Anti-Corruption Agency (Agence française anticorruption or AFA), according to the online journal Mediapart.
According to the revelation made on Sunday, Dassault had agreed to pay $1.17 million to one of the contractors in India, Defsy Solutions, for 50 large replica models of Rafale jets. However, when AFA asked about the replica models, Dassault failed to provide any details, including photographs.
Mediapart also revealed that Defsy Solutions does not specialise in making models. Instead, it assembles flight simulators and optical and electronic systems for the aeronautical industry, often under license for foreign companies.
Sushen Gupta, owner of Defsy Solutions, was arrested in March 2019 by the Enforcement Directorate (India’s investigating agency) in a money laundering case relating to a different scam.
According to the French online journalist, Charles Duchaine, the director of AFA, did not refer the matter to the authorities and instead mentioned the entire episode in “two short paragraphs” in the agency’s final report on its Dassault audit.
The AFA reports to the French Ministry of Justice and Finance.
Since the signing of the contract, the Rafale fighter jet deal has been under intense scrutiny by the Indian opposition as Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, among others, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of treason and corruption multiple times, and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal.
Since October 2019, 21 Rafale jets have been delivered to India.