The Congress on Monday demanded an independent inquiry and posed five questions to the Narendra Modi government after a French journal alleged the Rafale deal involved payment of 1.1 million euros to an Indian middleman, and asked if the latest revelation has vitiated India’s biggest defence deal.

Referring to the first of a three-part series by Mediapart, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Was the payment of €1.1 million shown by Dassault as ‘gifts to clients’ in reality a commission paid to middleman for the Rafale Deal? How can ‘middleman’ and ‘payment of commission’ be permitted in a ‘government to government defence contract’ or in any defence procurement in India in violation of the mandatory defence procurement procedure?” Surjewala said.

Arguing that the latest media report vitiated the Rafale deal, Surjewala said the revelation entailed imposition of heavy financial penalties on Dassault, banning of the company, registration of an FIR and other penal consequences.

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“Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India’s biggest defence deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government?” the Congress said, asking if Prime Minister Narendra Modi would answer to the nation on this.

According to the French report, the country’s anti-corruption agency AFA found the payment was made in October 2018 and questioned Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafale fighter jets. The report said that the jet-makers have not been able to answer the queries.

The Congress demanded that the standard procedure—lodging an FIR, independent investigation and related moves—must follow and reminded the government that during the UPA rule, then defence minister AK Antony had followed the stipulated procedure in the case of Agusta Westland.

The Opposition party said that defence procurement has an “integrity clause” that says there can be no middleman or payment of commission or bribe. “Any evidence of middleman or commission or bribery has serious penal consequences of banning of the supplier defence company, cancellation of contract, registration of FIR and imposition of heavy financial penalties on the defence supplier company,” said Surjewala.

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