Rafale-Middleman earned millions, leaked confidential defence ministry info during Rafale negotiations: Report

Rafale-Middleman earned millions, leaked confidential defence ministry info during Rafale negotiations as per the Report. An investigation by a French news portal has alleged that Sushen Gupta, the middleman in the Rafale jet deal, earned millions from Dassault Aviation by leaking confidential information to the French side. This included documents of the Indian defence ministry, learned citing indiatoday.

rafale fighter
rafale fighter

The third and final part of the investigation into the Rafale jets deal by French news portal Mediapart has revealed that businessman Sushen Gupta and his intermediaries received “several million Euros” from Dassault and its affiliates.

In turn, Gupta and his intermediaries “leaked confidential information”, including crucial documents of the Indian defence ministry about the Indian negotiating team’s positions and arguments it was likely to put forward during the negotiations.

Documents accessed by the French media portal suggest that Sushen Gupta acted as middleman for Dassault Aviation and its industrial partner Thales, for several years starting early 2000s.

Thales is a Paris-based defence-electronics company in which Dassault and the Government of France are stakeholders.

According to the Mediapart report, Thales “paid Sushen Gupta several million Euros in secret commissions to offshore accounts and shell companies, using inflated invoices for software consulting”.

‘NO VIOLATION IN THE CONTRACT’

Responding to the media reports, Dassault Aviation released a statement on Thursday evening, saying that no violations were reported during the signing of the contract.

Although the aviation firm didn’t respond to the specific charges, a Dassault Aviation spokesperson said, “Numerous controls are carried out by official organizations, including the French Anti-Corruption Agency. No violations were reported, notably in the frame of the contract with India for the acquisition of 36 Rafales.”

The Dassault Aviation reiterated that it acts in strict compliance with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Anti Bribery Convention and national laws.

“The contract with India for the acquisition of 36 Rafales has been established on a government-to-government basis. This contract, as well as the offsets corresponding contract, meet the criteria established by these regulations and are being executed in full transparency between the various government and industrial partners. The aircraft were delivered in respect of the schedule, despite the Covid-19 health crisis, and fully meet the security needs of the Indian authorities”, the Dassault spokesperson said.

“The aircraft were delivered in respect of the schedule, despite the Covid-19 health crisis, and fully meet the security needs of the Indian authorities,” the statement said.

“Dassault Aviation and the Reliance Group established the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) Joint Venture in 2017 and built a plant in Nagpur that has been producing numerous Falcon parts and pieces since 2018,” the statement said.

“Dassault Aviation and its partners are working with 60 companies in India and negotiations are underway to establish potential new cooperations,”the statement said.

WHO IS SUSHEN GUPTA?

Sushen Gupta comes from a family of defence contractors and was reportedly hired by the French side at the beginning of the 2000s, when news of India seeking to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) first surfaced.

His contract seemingly lasted until the signing of the final agreement between India and France.

On Friday, Sushen Gupta issued a statement, via his legal counsels, that termed the reports “fabricated, factually incorrect and baseless”.

Denying Gupta’s involvement in the Rafale deal, the counsel said, “Sushen Gupta or his companies are not involved in any manner in the Indo-French transaction for acquisition of 36 Rafale jets.”

“Sushen Gupta is not and has never been a commercial agent in relation to defense deals, whether of Dassault or of any other entity,” the counsel said.

Sushen Gupta also denied having conducting deals with Dassault, Thales or Safran as well.

“It is made clear that there have been no financial transactions whatsoever of Sushen Gupta or his companies with ‘IDS’, Interdev or Interstellar”, the statement added.

Sushen Gupta is also accused of laundering money in another controversial defence deal, the VVIP Chopper Deal, which now stands scrapped.

HOW DID HE OPERATE?

Gupta allegedly used a web of companies including IDS in India and Interstellar in Mauritius and several accounts in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

A similar network of companies was used during the AgustaWestland Chopper deal. Sushen Gupta was arrested in the case but was released on bail later.

According to the report, an individual named ‘Pierre’ at Dassault was the point person for disbursement of the commissions via front companies registered in Mauritius.

An internal Dassault document published by the French platform shows that the Dassault placed 2 million Euros-worth of orders with IDS in 2004, and planned to place 4.6 million more.

“Between 2002 and 2005, IDS transferred 900,000 Euros to Interstellar”, Medipart reported on Thursday.

Another Singapore-based company Interdev was used to launder money, which according to the report, was floated as a “system integrator for Dassault in Asia”, but later identified by Mediapart as a shell company run by “a straw man for the Guptas who is currently on the run in South Africa”.

‘D’–GUPTA’s SECRET CODE FOR DASSAULT

An account spreadsheet, allegedly belonging to Gupta, has been accessed by Mediapart. According to its report, Dassault has been designated with the code ‘D’ in the spreadsheet.

‘D’ reportedly paid 14.6 million Euros to Interdev in Singapore over the period 2004-2013, out of which Interdev transferred 2.6 million Euros to IDS, whereas 11.9 million Euros were transferred to Interstellar Mauritius.

The French report reveals Gupta’s bare access to privileged government information during the price negotiations cycle between Dassault and the Government of India, which spanned across several years.

“On April 13, 2012, his [Gupta’s] Singapore shell company, Interdev, drew up three contracts for consultancy services for Dassault, for a total of 4 million Euros. The work involved providing research reports on the defence market in India and identifying potential industrial partners,” Mediapart’s Yann Philippin reported on Thursday.

“Sushen Gupta was involved in the process of selecting Indian industrial partners,” Philippin wrote.

THE SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS

An electronic ticket accessed by Mediapart shows that Gupta was booked on an Air India flight from Paris to New Delhi on September 7, 2012.

Another document with notes cited by Mediapart, suggests he was likely finishing a meeting with Dassault Aviation on the same day.

A trove of documents accessed by Mediapart, including the confidential defence ministry notes, shows Gupta’s vital position during the final year of the price negotiations.

“He obtained confidential documents from the Indian defence ministry on the subject of the dispute over the purchase costs. These included the minutes of meetings by the Indian Negotiating Team (INT), the arguments they had prepared to present to the French, and detailed notes on the calculations of the costs [benchmarking of costs] and the methodology employed. Gupta even obtained an Excel sheet created by one member of the INT for calculating the purchase price,” Mediapart report alleged.

HOW DID IT HELP FRANCE AGAINST INDIA?

Apparently, full contents of a revised confidential offer from one of Rafale’s prime competitors Eurofighter, sent to then defence minister Arun Jaitley, was also accessed by Gupta and his associates.

The confidential information gathered by the middleman was effectively used by the French side to counter the Indian negotiating team’s arguments.

In one of the spreadsheets created on January 20, 2016, Gupta allegedly suggested an overall purchase cost of 7.87 billion Euros.

The French negotiating team reportedly proposed the exact same amount in the meeting next day.

Incidentally, after a few months, the final Rafale jets contract was agreed between the two sides at a cost of 7.87 billion Euros.

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