The French online investigative journal Mediapart made public some alleged false invoices on Sunday, 7 November.
Using these invoices as evidence, Mediapart claimed that the French aircraft company – Dassault Aviation – paid €7.5 million in kickbacks (an illegal payment made to somebody who sets up a meeting or transaction) to a middleman named Sushen Gupta to ensure the success of the Rs 59,000 crore deal with the Indian government for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The investigative report also says that "detectives from India's federal police force, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and colleagues from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights money laundering, have had proof [of this] since October 2018."
Along with other damning revelations, Mediapart alleges that Sushen Gupta received secret commissions from AgustaWestland, an Anglo-Indian helicopter, via an offshore company registered in Mauritius called Interstellar Technologies Ltd.
The Mauritian government, however, agreed to send certain "documents relating to this company, including contracts, invoices and bank statements" to the CBI and the ED, and that is how both investigative agencies discovered that "Sushen Gupta had also acted as an intermediary for Dassault Aviation over the Rafale deal."
But the story doesn't end there. The report alleges that "during the final negotiations of the Rafale contract, Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents from India's Ministry of Defence detailing the stance of the Indian negotiators, in particular how they calculated the price of the aircrafts."
Both Dassault Aviation and Sushen Gupta have refused to comment on the leaks, despite being contacted by Mediapart.
Mediapart has been investigating the Rafale controversy for quite some time now.
In April, the journal had alleged that Sushen Gupta and his employees had received "several million Euros" from Dassault and its affiliates.
His lawyer denied all the accusations.
"Sushen Gupta or his companies are not involved in any manner in the Indo-French transaction for acquisition of 36 Rafale jets," he had said, according to India Today.
"He is not and has never been a commercial agent in relation to defence deals, whether of Dassault or of any other entity," his counsel added.
(With inputs from Mediapart and India Today.)