Rafale deal: In a sensational expose in the Rafale controversy, The Indian Express on Tuesday reported that businessman Anil Ambani met top French Defence Ministry officials in March 2015 in Paris, just a fortnight before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France when the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets was clinched.
The IE report said that Ambani had visited Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian s office in Paris and held a meeting with his top advisors. Those who attended the meeting included Le Drian s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet, Christophe Salomon (industry advisor) and Geoffrey Bouquot (technical advisor for industrial affairs).
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Later, speaking about Anil Ambani’s March meeting, Salomon told a top official of a European defence company that it was a confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice .
Notably, when Ambani visited France to meet Le Drian’s officials, it was known to everyone that PM Modi will fly to France on an official trip between April 9 and 11. When PM Modi left for France, Anil Ambani was part of the delegation that he was leading. It was during this visit, the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was announced by PM Modi and then French President Francois Hollande in a joint statement.
The report said that Ambani had during the meeting expressed desire to work with Airbus Helicopters on both commercial and defence helicopters. He is also said to have mentioned an MoU in preparation and the intention to sign during PM Modi’s visit . The revelation was made by an official who was briefed on the meeting.
Interestingly, Reliance Defence that was named as the offset partner for Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter jets, was incorporated on March 28, 2015. This was the same week when Ambani had travelled to France. The total value of offsets from the deal is estimated to be around Rs 30,000 crore. However, Reliance Defence’s share is not known yet.
Earlier, state-run HAL was the licensed manufacturer of 108 aircraft in the contract but after fresh negotiations, Reliance Defence replaced the HAL. Now, the HAL has no say in the new agreement.