Rafale Deal: Mediapart Journalists On How They Broke The News
While the Indian and French governments have denied any role in Reliance getting the Rafale deal, the former French president Francois Hollande thinks otherwise. Hollande told a French-based journal, Mediapart, that:
The Indian government proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice. We took the interlocutor who was given to us. That’s why, on the other hand, this group did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Gayet.Hollande to Mediapart.
In a phone interview with NDTV, the editor of the journal, Edwy Plenel, and its reporter, Antton Rouget spoke to anchor and senior journalist Vikram Chandra, who asked,
Did you get Francois Hollande on camera? Did you record his statements?
We have a declaration, it was very clear and we have a long article. (...) We are professional. We have all the details of this.
What more can you tell us about the context in which he made these remarks and what exactly is it that he said?
We learned that Hollande’s partner received money from Anil Ambani from group Reliance (for a movie). At the same time there was a contract about the 36 Rafale jets and we asked Hollande about the link, since there was possibly a conflict of interest. Mr Hollande was very clear in his reply about this link. “We didn’t have a word to say about that subject. The Indian government suggested the service provider and that’s how we negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice. The interlocutor was selected for us. This is why the company didn’t have an interest in granting me any special privilege.”
Did you get any indication from him as to what level did the request come at? Was it the PM, senior person in the government or a senior bureaucrat?
I understand but our investigation was about the conflict of interest that Mr Hollande was facing about the Rafale and Dassault company and Reliance group giving money to produce his girlfriend’s movie. Our question was just this. The big investigation about this story... I think there are good investigators and independent media in India to make this link, but this was not the focus of our investigation.
Are you satisfied now that the conflict of interest was not the case? That it was Indian government who asked of this?
I think this is the beginning of a new story and that is the reason for this turmoil in your country. Mr Hollande says in contradiction to what your government is saying. Mr Modi government and Mr Hollande, ex president, are not saying the same thing. This is a very big story for you and for us also.
Plenel ends by telling NDTV, "This money was given for the co-producer and not for Mr Hollande's girlfriend. There was a sort of distance between Hollande's partner and Ambani. But we will continue to work on this story.”
An NDTV reporter asked one of the two reporters who broke the story, Antton Rouget, if there was documentary evidence on who proposed Reliance be taken up as a subject of investigation, to which his response was similar to what Plenel said.
When asked if defence and arms experts in France were concerned with the choice of partnering with Reliance, Antton told NDTV, “ We did speak to analysts and experts on arms and security who had already been surprised for a long time with the choice of this partner (Reliance ADG) and which poses a real question of security, given that Dassault is a group of international recognition with a serious image. Yet, curiously the Modi government associates itself with a group which may be financially powerful but has no experience.
(With inputs from NDTV)