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France begins judicial probe into kickbacks in Rafale jets deal with India

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France has appointed a judge to investigate "corruption" and "favoritism" suspicions in the 2016 multi-billion dollar deal with India for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets, The Print said Saturday quoting French media reports.

According to the French investigative website Mediapart, a judicial probe into suspected corruption was opened on June 14 in France over the 7.8-billion-euro Rafale contract of 2016.

French news agency AFP also reported that National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) said a French judge has been tasked with investigating "corruption" suspicions in the deal.

The new probe is an outcome of a series of reports done by Mediapart regarding the deal.

Based on the reports by Mediapart, Sherpa, an NGO which works in the field giving support to victims of financial crimes, filed a complaint in April with PNF requesting the opening of a judicial investigation for corruption, favoritism and various financial offences likely to have occurred in the context of the sale of 36 combat aircraft manufactured by aviation major Dassault Aviation.

Mediapart had said that the Agence Franà aise Anticorruption (AFA) found suspicious payments made to a company linked to a middleman who was arrested by India's Enforcement Directorate in 2019 in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.

The AFA, set up in 2017 with the aim of checking whether large companies implemented the anti-corruption procedures set out under Sapin 2, the French anti-corruption law, is similar to India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). However, unlike CAG, the AFA also audits private firms, The Print said.

French presidents, ministers under scanner

In its latest report, the Mediapart said that "the criminal investigation opened on June 14 and led by an independent magistrate, an investigating judge, will, among other elements, examine questions surrounding the action of former French President Francois Hollande, who was in office when the Rafale deal was inked, and current French President Emmanuel Macron, who was at that time Hollande's economy and finance minister, as well as the then defense minister, now foreign affairs minister, Jean Yves Le Drian".

Earlier this year, Mediapart claimed that the former PNF head, Ã"degreesliane Houlette, had shelved an investigation into alleged evidence of corruption in the Rafale jet deal despite the objection of colleagues.

It had said Houlette justified her decision to shelve the investigations as preserving "the interests of France, the workings of institutions."

Sherpa said that its first complaint was filed with PNF in October 2018 to bring to attention "facts which, in our opinion, should have justified the opening of an investigation".

The NGO Sherpa 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.

CBI probe urged against Modi in Rafale deal

On October, 4, 20218, the former union ministers and BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and the senior advocate of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan, filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chairman of Reliance ADA group Anil Ambani and the CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier in the controversial Rafale deal.

The complaints have alleged that a conspiracy was hatched between PM Modi and Anil Ambani, by way of which, "PM Modi obtained an undue advantage from Dassault Aviation, for awarding a contract for 36 Rafale aircrafts in 'fly-away' condition, by abusing the authority of his office".

According to The Quaint, the complainant also alleged that:

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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