PM Acting as Middleman: Rahul Over Report on Ambani’s France Visit
In yet another revelation in the ongoing Rafale saga, a report in a national daily has revealed that industrialist Anil Ambani had visited the then French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office in Paris in March 2015, just two weeks prior to Modi government’s announcement of the deal for procurement of 36 fighter jets.
The Indian Express reported that the meeting was attended by Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; his industry advisor, Christophe Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot.
Salomon described the meeting to a top official of a European defence company as “confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice,” the report added.
Ambani, according to the report, is also said to have mentioned a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) “in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit”.
Ambani was also a part of the PM’s delegation during this visit, which saw India and France announce the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft.
Incidentally, as the Indian Express report points out, Reliance Defence was incorporated on 28 March 2015.
Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal. The government has been maintaining it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner.
‘PM Acting as Middleman for Anil Ambani’
Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched a fresh attack on the Narendra Modi government on Tuesday based on the Indian Express report, saying, “The Prime Minister is acting as the middleman for Anil Ambani.”
Speaking at a press conference held in New Delhi, Gandhi also put forth an email from an Airbus employee that highlighted that Ambani had mentioned the MoU ahead of the PM’s scheduled official visit.
How did Ambani know of the deal ahead of the then defence minister and HAL, Gandhi asked. “This is treason, Modi is doing what spies do, he is informing somebody of a defence matter. He is under oath to protect these secrets,” he said.
This also raises questions on the SC’s judgment on Rafale, he said.
“There is no doubt now that the PM is corrupt. Ambani knew of the MoU well ahead of the PM’s visit to France,” he added.
Reliance Defence Rejects Rahul's Charges, Says 'Proposed MoU' Not on Rafale
Reacting to allegations leveled by the Congress president, Reliance Defence in a released statement said the "proposed MoU" mentioned in a purported email cited by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his fresh allegations on the Rafale deal was a reference to its cooperation with Airbus Helicopter and had "no connection" with the fighter jet contract.
In a significant development, a French media report had quoted former French President Francois Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and that “France did not have a choice”.
Reacting to Hollande's remark, that was at variance with the stand taken by the Indian government, a defence ministry spokesman had said, as per PTI: "The report referring to former French president Hollande's statement that government of India insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified."
The spokesperson also said, "It is reiterated that neither the government nor the French government had any say in the commercial decision."
(With inputs from The Indian Express, PTI)