Further intensifying his attack on the purchase of Rafale deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation of paying 'first tranche of kickbacks' of Rs 284 crore to Anil Ambani. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Gandhi reiterated his allegations of massive corruption in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal.
In a fresh salvo against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress scion said that if an inquiry starts on the Rafale deal, the Prime Minister is not going to survive the probe.
"Dassault gave Rs 284 crore to a loss-making company with a valuation of Rs 8.3 lakh. This is the first instalment of kickbacks that has been given to Anil Ambani," he alleged.
In a tweet later, he said "Rs 284 crore of Rafale kick-back money has been traced to an Anil Ambani owned company. The stench of corruption is leading straight to the gates of Race Course Road.
There was no immediate reaction from the government or the BJP on the fresh charges, though they have previously rejected all allegations over the Rafale deal.
The Reliance Group has completely rejected the allegations and said that Dassault Aviation's investment in Reliance Airport Developers Limited (RADL) has no link with the Rafale fighter jet deal, and accused the Congress of resorting to "blatant lies" for political gains. In its statement, the Reliance Group stated that the RADL transaction was completed in full compliance with applicable FDI and all other rules and regulations and the information has been disclosed in public domain since December 2017 onwards.
"Investment by Dassault Aviation in RADL, to acquire 34.8 per cent equity stake for Rs 309 crore, was made by way of FDI in September 2017 - nearly 14 months ago, in a transparent manner and in full compliance of applicable laws, keeping in view the management and development of Airport Infrastructure at five locations by RADL," it said.
The company also termed as "factually incorrect and preposterous" allegations that Dassault's investment in RADL was used to pay for the land in Mihan near Nagpur where Reliance Defence Ltd and the French company are setting up a manufacturing unit for aerospace components.
"We repeat it is a blatant lie to state that land at Mihan was bought from funds provided by Dassault," it said.
The Congress has accused the government of forcing Dassault Aviation to make Reliance Defence its offset partner for the Rs 58,000 crore deal to purchase 36 Rafale jets. The Congress alleged that the government was helping the Anil Ambani group get a contract worth Rs 30,000 crore from the deal.
"It is deeply unfortunate that the Reliance Group and its Chairman, Anil Ambani, are continuously being dragged into a political battle in view of the impending state and general elections in the country," the Reliance statement said.
"The Congress Party has today once again resorted to blatant lies and distorted facts to mount an unwarranted campaign of calumny and falsehoods against the Reliance Group and its Chairman Mr Anil Ambani personally," it alleged.
The Congress chief also quoted Dassault Aviation CEO Éric Trappier in media reports saying the reason Ambani's firm was given the offset contract and not state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was that it had land for the project.
Gandhi alleged that the land was purchased by Ambani's company with the money that Dassault gave.
However, Reliance said the investment by Dassault in RADL and purchase of land by Reliance Infra for setting up a manufacturing facility in Mihan under a joint venture between Reliance Defence Ltd and Dassault are two different and independent transactions.
The foundation stone of the manufacturing facility under the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) was laid in October 2017.
"The Dassault investment in DRAL and RADL are two independent and stand alone business investments and in both cases, funds have been received by the companies and not a single rupee by Mr Anil Ambani in his personal capacity," the company said.
"Therefore, any suggestion of any payment to Anil Ambani is absolutely false and mischievous," it said.
The Reliance statement also said that the Indian Government, French government, Dassault and Reliance have clarified on multiple occasions that there is no offset contract for Rs 30,000 crore to Reliance as alleged by Congress.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.
The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating the deal.