I Don’t Lie: Dassault CEO Denies Rahul Gandhi’s Rafale Allegations
In an interview to ANI, Dassault Aviation’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier rubbished Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegations that he had lied about the details of the Dassault-Reliance Joint Venture (JV) for offset contracts in the Rafale Jet deal.
“I don't lie. The truth I declared before and the statements I made are true. I don't have a reputation for lying. In my position as CEO, you don't lie,” Trappier said responding to Rahul Gandhi's charge that Dassault was covering up for possible cronyism in awarding the offset deal to Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group.
What Rahul Gandhi Claims
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, in a press conference on 2 November, had alleged that Dassault invested Rs 284 crore in a loss-making company promoted by Anil Ambani which was used to procure land in Nagpur.
In a sharp allegation, Gandhi had said, “It is clear that the Dassault CEO is lying. If an enquiry starts on this, Modi is not going to survive it. Guaranteed.”
‘Dassault’s First Deal was With Nehru in 1953’
“We have a long experience with the Congress party. Our first deal was with India in 1953 with Nehru and other prime ministers. We have been working with India. We are not working for any party. We are supplying strategic products like fighters to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian government," Trappier said, stressing that the supply is the most important.
On Why Dassault Picked Reliance
Explaining Dassault's choice of Reliance, an offset partner which comes with no experience of manufacturing fighter jets, Trappier said the money being invested was not going to Reliance directly but in a Joint Venture (JV) that included Dassault.
“We are not putting the money in Reliance. The money is going into the JV. I put my knowhow free of charge on how to produce people. I have engineers and workers from Dassault who are taking the lead as far as the industrial part of this deal is concerned. At the same time, I have an Indian company like Reliance who is putting money into this JV as they want to develop their country. So the company is going to know how to produce aircraft.Eric Trappier, CEO, Dassault Aviation SA
Trappier said Reliance would match the amount since the shareholding pattern is 49 percent Dassault and 51 percent Reliance as per prescribed government norms.
"We are supposed to put in this company together about Rs 800 crore as 50:50. For the time being, to start work in the hangar and to pay workers and employees, we have already put Rs 40 crore. But it will be increased to Rs 800 crore, which implies Rs 400 crore by Dassault in the coming five years," said Trappier.
He added Dassault has seven years to perform the offset. "During first three years, we are not obliged to say with who we are working. We have already settled work and agreement with 30 companies, which represents 40 percent of total offset obligation as per contract. Reliance is 10 percent out of the 40, while rest 30 percent is a direct agreement between these companies and Dassault," Trappier said.
On Pricing of 36 Rafale Jets
On the pricing issue, the CEO said that the present aircrafts are cheaper by 9 percent. "Price of 36 was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway. 36 is the double of 18, so as far as I was concerned, it should have been double the price. But because it was government to government, there was some negotiation, I had to decrease price by 9 percent. The price of Rafale in flyaway condition is less expensive in the 36 contract than the 126 contract," he said.
‘I Took the Decision to Pick Reliance over HAL’
Talking about the initial agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the subsequent breakdown of talks with the Indian PSU for production of Rafale jets, the Trappier said that if the initial deal of 126 jets went through they would not have hesitated to work with HAL and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance.
"It's because the 126 didn't go smooth that the Government of India had to reconfigure to urgently acquire 36 from France. And then I took the decision to continue with Reliance, and HAL even said in the last few days that they were not interested to be part of the offset. So, it has been done by my decision and the decision of Reliance to invest in a new private company," Trappier told ANI.
‘We Could have Gone for Tata’
He added that Dassault was earlier in discussions with several other companies for offset tie-ups like Tata and other family groups.
“Obviously, we could have gone to Tata or other family groups. At that time, the decision to go ahead was not given to Dassault.”Eric Trappier, CEO, Dassault Aviation SA
“We were in 2011, Tata was also discussing with other flying companies. We finally decided to go ahead with Reliance as they have experience in big engineering facilities," Trappier told ANI.
Talking about the aircraft, the Dassault CEO explained that the present planes will have all necessary equipments but not weapons and missiles. "The weapons will be sent in different contract. But the aircraft with everything other than weapons will be dispatched by Dassault," he said.
PR Stunts Can’t Hide Blatant Corruption: Surjewala
Responding to Trappier's defence of the contract, Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that "dictated interviews" and "manufactured lies" cannot suppress the Rafale scam.
Stressing on the need for a fair probe, and not "doctored explanations," Surjewala said on Twitter that "truth has a way of coming out."
He also alleged:
“... Fixed match between BJP Government and Dassault and PR Stunts of PM Modi and Eric Trappier can’t hide the blatant corruption (sic).”
(With inputs from ANI)