'Completely baseless': BJP dismisses Congress' bribe allegations in Rafale deal

The BJP on Monday dismissed as "completely baseless" the allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal, stressing that the Supreme Court had rejected a demand for a probe in the purchase of the fighter aircraft and the CAG also found nothing wrong.

Responding to a question about the Congress' attack on the Modi government over the bribe allegations, senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that the opposition party made it a big issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but lost badly.

He said the allegations of corruption were "completely baseless" and suggested that a report in the French media about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal may be due to "corporate rivalry" in that country.

Noting that the Congress had raised the issue earlier too, he said the Supreme Court rejected the demand for a probe and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found nothing wrong in the fighter aircraft deal.

The Congress on Monday sought a thorough probe in the Rafale defense deal and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million euros were paid to a "middleman" by the aircraft manufacturer.

Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told a press conference here that the French news portal's report has proved that Rahul Gandhi's oft-repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were correct.

While there was no immediate response from the BJP or the government on the charges, they have in the past denied any irregularities in the country's biggest defence deal. Surjewala said as per the French portal's report, an investigation conducted by the 'French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA)' has revealed that after signing of the deal in 2016, Rafale's manufacturer Dassault allegedly paid ?1.1 million to a middleman -- Defsys Solutions -- which is an Indian company.

"Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India's biggest defence deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government," he asked at a press conference.

"Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi answer to the nation now?" he asked.

Surjewala said this amount was shown as expenditure by Dassault as "gifts to clients".

The Congress leader said that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) as also the stated Indian government policy envisage there will be an "Integrity Clause" in every defence purchase contract which clearly states that there can be no middleman or payment of commission or bribe.

Surjewala said that as per the DPP, any evidence of middleman or commission or bribery has serious penal consequences including the banning of the supplier, cancellation of contract, registration of an FIR and imposition of heavy financial penalties on the company.

"Has it not vitiated the Rafale deal entailing imposition of heavy financial penalties on Dassault, banning of the company, registration of an FIR and other penal consequences," he asked.

He asked whether the payment of ?1.1 million shown by Dassault as 'Gifts to Clients' in reality a commission paid to the middleman for the Rafale deal.

"How can 'middleman' and 'Payment of Commission' be permitted in a 'government-to-government Defence Contract' or in any Defence procurement in India in violation of the mandatory Defence Procurement Procedure," he asked.

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