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Anil Ambani Met French Defence Ministry Officials Two Weeks Before PM Modi Announced Rafale Deal

Ambani had reportedly also mentioned an MoU “in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit”.

In March 2015, Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani had reportedly met with French Defence Ministry officials about two weeks before the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government signed the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France. This meeting took place shortly before Prime Minister Modi was scheduled to make an official visit to France in April 2015. It is also noteworthy that Reliance Defence was incorporated on March 28, 2015 — the week in which Ambani met the French officials.

According to a report in the Indian Express, the meeting described as “confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice” was attended by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; his industry advisor, Christophe Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot.

Also read: What is The Corruption That Modi Wanted to Hide?: Congress Slams PM For Waiving Anti-Corruption Measures in Rafale Deal 

Ambani, in the meeting, reportedly expressed his wish to work with Airbus Helicopters on both commercial and defence helicopters and also mentioned a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) “in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit”.

In a press briefing just before Modi’s visit, then-foreign secretary S Jaishankar had claimed that the defence deal was “on a different track” and that India does not mix up “leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contract”.

“In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions underway between the French company, our Ministry of Defence, the HAL which is involved in this. These are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions. We do not mix up leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts. That is on a different track. A leadership visit usually looks at big picture issues even in the security field,” Jaishankar had told the media.

When Prime Minister Modi visited France in April 2015, Ambani was, of course, a part of the delegation. Two days after Jaishankar’s media brief, Modi signed the deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with France by increasing the benchmark price from Euro 5.2 billion to Euro 8.2 billion, which as per media reports was 40 per cent higher per aircraft than the UPA-era tender for the same plane. The extended UPA negotiations to buy 126 fighter aircraft was set aside.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal, on February 12, tweeted excerpts of an email trail. The excerpts indicate that the French government, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, and Anil Ambani were aware of MoUs that were supposed to be signed during Modi’s visit to France.

“This government’s lies exposed,” wrote Sibal.

The Congress party’s official Twitter handle too cited the Indian Express report and said, “Two weeks before even the then RM Parrikar knew about Modi’s Rafale deal, the failed businessman Anil Ambani met French defence officials in a confidential meeting. Soon after, Reliance Defence was incorporated,” adding, “Bolo ‘Chowkidar chor hai’.”

Congress president Rahul Gandhi too accused Modi of acting as a middleman of Anil Ambani in the Rafale jet deal, citing the same email. Ambani’s knowledge of a defence deal under preparation, which even the then defence minister had said he was not aware of, is in violation of the Official Secrets Act, Gandhi alleged at the press conference

Gandhi said, “(Then) Defence Minister (Manohar Parrikar) says he doesn’t know about the new deal, whereas Anil Ambani is sitting in the French Defence Minister’s office saying PM will sign an MoU with him involved. This is the breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Also read: Rafale Parallel Negotiations By PMO Weakened India’s Negotiating Team: Defence Ministry’s Note 

(With PTI inputs)

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