A few days ago the ghost of “Rafale scam” raised its head again. A French media house has released a 3 part article series in which it has leveled allegations that a middleman currently being probed by Enforcement Directorate for Augusta Westland “choppergate” was also involved in other defense deals, specifically the Rafale deal. The media as well as the opposition parties have started making some noises with Congress Party seeing this as a validation for the statement that Rahul Gandhi made in the run up to 2019 elections. The man at the center of the controversy is Sushen Mohan Gupta.
Separating wheat from the chaff
Before we move ahead, let us know exactly what the French website Mediapart has alleged and how much it is worth. In the first article, the website revealed that the Dassault, the company that manufactures Rafale, paid 1 million Euros(about Rs. 8 crores) to a middleman of Bharatiya origin. According to its report, this payment was flagged by the French anti corruption agency AFA. However, no action was taken by the French.
It is curious to note that the payments were made in 2017, many months AFTER the defense deal had been signed. Dassault explained that the payment was for making of 50 car sized replicas of Rafale by a company named as Defsys Solutions. Contrary to allegations of Mediapart that the models were not supplied, Defsys actually released copies of copies of delivery challans, E-way bills and GST returns from 2017, claiming that it had fulfilled the order.
The second article of the series deals with what happened in France after the investigations and why the same was not continued in that country. The third part deals with payment of several millions of euros to Sushen Gupta over many years by Dassault and the possession of secret defense ministry documents by Gupta. This information was allegedly part of the Enforcement Directorate investigation file on Gupta, which somehow the French news website managed to obtain.
It is curious to note that the payments to Sushen Gupta start much before Rafale deal was signed. According to report, Dassault allegedly made payment of 14.6 million Euros to shell company controlled by Gupta during the period 2003-14, i.e. exactly corresponding to the period UPA was in power. PM Modi’s govt cancelled that deal and renegotiated the same, probably due to such elements.
Who exactly is Sushen Gupta?
Sushen Gupta is a businessman who is said to be in the business of defense deals since at least 2-3 generations. His father Dev Gupta, his brother Sushant Gupta and other close relatives are also in the same business since decades. Currently, he is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in the “VVIP Choppergate” which allegedly involved kickbacks received by many Bharatiya nationals from the Italian company AugustaWestland. Many people reportedly close to the Gandhi family, specially the now deceased Ahmed Patel, were rumored to have received the kickbacks in that deal. Many others like Christian Michael, Rajeev Saxena and Deepak Talwar are being investigated for the chopper scam by the ED.
Sushen Gupta has multiple companies in his name and is apparently involved in software consultancy, air support maintenance, power and hospitality among other sectors. He is a director in Horizon Air Support Maintenance (India)Private Limited, Actia India Private Limited, DM South India Hospitality Private Limited, DM Luxury Resorts Private Limited, Foresight Solutions Private Limited, Darun Hospitality LLP, Deftronics (India) Private Limited, DM Power Private Limited, Chowgule Resorts Private Limited and American Hotels and Restaurants Private Limited.
The name of partners and directors in these companies tell a story of high connections of Sushen Gupta. Take for example the Actia India Private Limited. It was registered in Bharat on 12 June 2002 as a software company that offers all sorts of software services to its customers. It has 3 other directors apart from Sushen and Sushant. Their names are Jean Louis Raymond Achille Pech, Pierre Francois Calmels and Catherine Pech Mallet Marcelle Helene. All of them are French nationals and have connections to French defense forces and its defense industry. Actually, Actia India is a Joint Venture between the Gupta family and the Actia group which is headquartered in France and has operations in more than a dozen countries. The French parent company has 51% share in the company registered in Bharat and in the latest financial reports, has mentioned about the closure of its subsidiary in Bharat. Its annual reports show that it has been in business with Dassault at least since 2004-05. This also aligns with the timeline of payments mentioned in the report of Mediapart.
In Bharat too, Guptas have connections in the defense establishment and that may explain part of the story. In their company American Hotels and Restaurants, which was incorporated in 1995 and has registered office in the same address as Actia, it has Lt. Gen.(Ret) Balraj Singh Takhar and Brig(Ret) Sri Ram Prothi. Gen Takhar was interrogated by the ED in AugustaWestland case too.
Curiously Sushen was also a partner in a defunct company called Darun Hospitality Llp. Apart from his brother, the third partner in this company was Ranjan Kishore Bhattacharya, the foster son-in-law of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. According to various contemporary reports of Vajpayee era and certain memoirs, Bhattacharya has a reputation for being a wheeler-dealer and his name had also cropped up in the sting operation in which the then BJP President Bangaru Laxman was convicted.
So, where does all that information lead us to? We have a khandani business, that has deep connections with the Lutyans’ elite, certain high ranked people in defense establishment of Bharat and powerful international actors. The business has been in existence since decades and is being probed by Bharatiya agencies even before the French media portal got wind of it. In fact, a large part of the information by the French portal is derived from illegally obtained confidential files of Enforcement Directorate.
Rahul Gandhi fanboys might see a scam in here by the current government, but that is only because their intelligence is put on leash by their devotion to their master. About 95% of the total alleged payment to Guptas happened during the period of Congress government at center. The payment that happened later has been explained by the company and the payments should still definitely be probed. The persons under scanner are the part of the Lutyans’ elite, a class loyal to a fault to the Congress.
There can be no doubt that the allegations should be probed with all sincerity. The truth is that not a single person who is part of the current government or was part of the Rafale deal has been even remotely connected to the allegations. The amount involved in the “bribe”, it is just about Rs. 138 crores paid over 15 years for a deal worth Rs. 59000 crore, is quite small as the defense deals go. For comparison, the VVIP Chopper scam reportedly had bribes of more than Rs. 250 crores for a deal that was worth Rs. 3600 crore. There certainly is another story lurking there for the investigators to uncover.
(Featured image : PTI)
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