Rafale Maker Dassault Ups The Ante Against Detractors, Says Open To Probe Into The Deal In France And India  Éric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation  

Upping the ante against those alleging corruption in the Rafale deal, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, has said that he is open to “any investigation” in India and France to establish the truth.

“We stick to the laws of France and laws of India and the law of the contract,” Trappier was quoted by the Economic Times as saying.

“We are totally against corruption. If there is any investigation in France or India, we are not only open to the investigation, it is our duty (to respond). We will prove there is no corruption,” he added, challenging the detractors.

The Congress and other opposition parties have been accusing the Narendra Modi government of corruption, claiming that it had favoured Anil Ambani’s Reliance over state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Dassault has clarified that the decision to select Reliance for offset execution was made by the company. The French government, with which India signed the deal, has also said that Dassault was free to choose its partners in India.

Trappier confirmed that Dassault’s partnership with Reliance will involve an investment of Rs 850 crore, not Rs 30,000 crore. The opposition, with Congress President Rahul Gandhi leading the charge, has claimed that the entire offset obligation of Rs 30,000 crore will be executed through Reliance.

“The capital investment in the joint venture is Rs 70 crore. The JV is 51 per cent with Reliance, so we have invested 49 per cent of Rs 70 crore,” he said. “We will step by step increase the capital in the JV following the job we have to do. Our plan is to upgrade this figure to Rs 850 crore. So, my investment in this Rs 850 crore will over five years be 49 per cent of this number, which is about Rs 425 crore. It has nothing to do with the big figures,” Trappier noted.

He also mentioned that Dassault has signed deals with 30 companies for offset execution. Earlier, the company had revealed that it is in talks with 100 other firms in the country for tie-ups to fulfil the offset obligations.

Going into the details of the price of the fighter, Trappier said the 36 bought by the Modi government off the shelf are 9 per cent cheaper than the 18 that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was to buy off the shelf. Under the deal that the Congress-led UPA was negotiating for 126 Rafales for the Indian Air Force but did not sign, 18 fighters were to be bought off the shelf from the company while the remaining were to be assembled in India.

He also touched upon the controversy triggered by former French president Francois Hollande, who had claimed that the Indian government had suggested Reliance’s name. Trappier said that Dassault had “found” Reliance in 2011-12, when Hollande was not the president of France.

“Mr Hollande has clarified it by saying that the two partners found themselves on their own. We found Reliance in 2011-12,” Trappier said. “So, this was not at the time of Hollande and not at the time of your current PM. It has been a long time since we are discussing with Reliance. I want to be clear that Dassault is a partner as the Ambanis are a very respectable family,” he added.

This is the second time the CEO of Dassault has come out to defend the deal in the last one month. In an interview with Agence France-Presse earlier this month, Trappier had refuted claims made by French portal Mediapart, which had reported that Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the firm, Loïk Segalen, had said in May 2017 that the firm’s joint venture with Reliance was a “condition”, “imperative and obligatory”. Experts had said the French portal could have misquoted the official, who was informing the workers’ association about the offset obligation under the Rafale deal.

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