French portal Mediapart has alleged that Dassault paid at least €7.5 mn to middleman Sushen Gupta from 2007 to 2012 through “overbilled” IT contracts with a shell company to secure the €7.87 bn deal Rafale deal with India. Despite the existence of related papers since October 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not yet taken up a probe, it alleged.
A response from the CBI to the allegation is still awaited.
The probe agencies have accused Mr. Gupta of being instrumental in the routing of commissions in the 2010 AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal via Mauritius-based shell company Interstellar Technologies Limited and several other such entities.
Arrest by ED
In March 2019, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him in that case, based on the disclosures made by Rajiv Saxena, who was deported from the United Arab Emirates. The latter disclosed that Interstellar Technologies was controlled by Mr. Gupta and another accused, Gautam Khaitan. The funds were further transferred by him to other entities in different countries.
According to the French portal’s report, the Attorney General’s office in Mauritius had sent the documents to the CBI Director on October 11, 2018, in response to a letter of request seeking information in the chopper deal case. A week earlier, on October 4, 2018, the CBI got a complaint alleging corruption in Rafale deal from lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union Minister Arun Shourie.
“...His (Sushen Gupta’s) Mauritian company, Interstellar Technologies received at least 7.5 million euros from the French aviation firm between 2007 and 2012, thanks to IT contracts that were clearly overbills, and from which most of the money was discreetly sent to Mauritius using a system of alleged false invoices. Some of these invoices even got the name of the French company wrong, referring instead to Dassult Aviation,” said the Mediapart report.
According to the portal, Mr. Gupta was hired as a middleman by Dassault in 2001, after India announced that it wanted to buy fighter jets; the official bid process itself was only launched in 2007.
“Other documents obtained by Indian detectives show that in 2015, 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 aircraft. Dassault has refused to comment on these documents. Sushen Gupta did not respond when contacted by Mediapart,” stated the report.
Three-part investigative series
In a three-part investigative series in April, Mediapart said Dassault paid €1 mn to Defsys Solutions, one of the Gupta family’s Indian companies, for the production of 50 replica models of the Rafale jet, but French authorities were not shown any proof that they were actually made.
Further in July, the French publication reported that a French judge will conduct a judicial investigation into the Rafale deal on charges of corruption following a decision by the French national financial prosecutors' office (PNF).
The Rafale deal has faced several questions in the past pertaining to allegations of corruption, favoritism and deviations in procedure.