Reliance choice was must: Dassault official

French investigative journal cites company document saying offset partner was not an option

October 11, 2018 12:56 am | Updated 01:38 am IST - London

Eric Trappier, left, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, French Defence Minister Florence Parly and Anil Ambani, Reliance Group chairman, in Nagpur in October 2017.

Eric Trappier, left, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, French Defence Minister Florence Parly and Anil Ambani, Reliance Group chairman, in Nagpur in October 2017.

Dassault Aviation, the French maker of the Rafale jets, viewed the choice of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offset partner, as imperative and mandatory, according to the French independent investigative journal Mediapart .

In a piece published on October 10, it cited an internal Dassault Aviation document to conclude that the French company viewed the Ambani alliance as essential to striking the deal.

 

The publication obtained a copy of a compte-rendu – or report – based on a meeting on 11 May 2017, at which Chief Operating Officer Loik Segalen “effectively represented” Reliance Defence as the counterparty to the sales contract.

He told staff representatives that it was “imperative and mandatory” for Dassault Aviation to accept this counterparty “to obtain the export contract for Rafale India,” he said, according to the document.

Dassault Aviation did not respond to a request for comment by the publication.

The latest revelations follow Mediapart ’s explosive conversation with former French President Francoise Hollande in September when he suggested that it was the Indian government that had proposed Anil Ambani’s company as the offset partner for the 7.87 billion euro deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets.

He told the journal that his government hadn’t had “a choice” in the selection of Reliance Defence, owned by Mr. Ambani, and that they had taken the “interlocutor that was given to us.”

Both the latest revelations and Mr. Hollande’s comments run contrary to the narrative presented by the Indian government that it was Dassault Aviation that had chosen Reliance Defence as its offset partner. Following Mr. Hollande’s comments the Defence Ministry insisted that neither government “had any say in the commercial decision.”

Earlier this month Arun Shourie, former Union Minister, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan submitted a 32-page complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and further documents, and urged the Central Bureau of Investigation to open a probe.

The complaint alleges that days before the new deal was signed Dassault had been in the final stages of negotiation for 126 aircraft, and that a proposal for HAL to be Dassault’s partner in India for manufacturing through the transfer of technology was on the table.

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