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French Justice opens a judicial investigation and tasks judge with investigating the controversial sale of Rafale fighter jets to India on “corruption” suspicions

Paris, July, 5th 2021 As a result of the complaint accompanied by criminal indemnification (partie civile) filed by Sherpa April, 20th 2021, French legal prosecutor requests the opening of a judicial investigation for corruption, patronage and various financial offences likely to have occurred in the context of the sale of 36 combat aircrafts produced by Dassault Aviation and sold to India in 2016.

first complaint was lodged by Sherpa on 26 October 2018 in order to bring to the attention of the French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office facts that should have triggered the opening of an investigation.

Sherpa outlined the opaque circumstances surrounding the negotiations and signing of a Franco-Indian agreement for the production and sale by Dassault Aviation of 36 Rafale aircrafts amounting to 7.8 billion euros. The NGO questioned the conditions under which the historical operator in India has been pushed aside and the sudden appointment by Dassault Aviation of the Indian group Reliance, which in addition to having no experience in the aeronautical sector was facing important financial troubles and was headed by a man notoriously close to the Indian Prime Minister in office.

This case has undoubtably the dimension of an affair of state. The documentation gathered by Sherpa over the past two years, as well as the revelations made by Médiapart on the passivity of the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) following the discovery of suspicious payments by Dassault Aviation, hidden commissions and bribes paid to Indian intermediaries and the fate of anti-corruption clauses that have disappeared from the deal, are all elements showing the importance of opening an investigation.

According to Sandra Cossart, Executive Director of Sherpa, “This case demonstrates the failure of today’s anti-corruption approach, largely based on compliance mechanism and the false assumption that companies are the ultimate bulwark against corruption”.

She added “the Rafales deal case is an illustration of the deadlocks in fighting corruption when national interests are at stake. We call for a drastic change in the institutional approach in order to prevent political interests interfering with judicial proceedings”.

Last modified: 12 July 2023