France annulled in 2015 a tax recovery for a company owned by a businessman close to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, at the time when the sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets was being negotiated.
reveals Saturday The World. These revelations, largely echoed by the Indian press, come at a time when India has begun voting for legislative elections that will decide the fate of the outgoing prime minister.
The tax adjustment in question amounted to 143.7 million euros, claimed for years in favor of a French company belonging to the Reliance Communications group, the Indian businessman Anil Ambani. The Reliance Group has denied "any favoritism and profit" and confirmed that the tax dispute was settled by an agreement "within the legal framework accessible to all companies operating in France", in a statement sent to AFP.
The settlement of the dispute was "in full compliance with the legal and regulatory framework" and without "any political interference," according to the French Embassy in New Delhi.
A meeting with Emmanuel Macron in Bercy
The French company Reliance Flag Atlantic France, owned by Anil Ambani, knew, at the material time, "serious financial problems" and its solvency was jeopardized by a large tax debt, according to The world. The dispute was settled between February and October 2015, at a time when India and France were negotiating
the sale of thirty-six fighter planes. Anil Ambani, who has since become a key player in the Rafale contract, met on March 23, 2015 with several advisers to the then Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, now Minister of Foreign Affairs, according to the daily, citing an internal Airbus email leaked in the Indian press.
A close associate of the businessman also boasted to the newspaper to have met with Anil Ambani at the beginning of 2015 Emmanuel Macron in his office in Bercy, to settle the tax dispute. Solicited by AFP, the tax administration said "can not give information on a particular file, without breaking the law."
"If I had seen such a file, I would remember it. I did not intervene in this matter, "said Christian Eckert, Secretary of State for the Budget at that time, noting" not completely impossible that other ministers of the time, or obviously the Elysee , intervened, without necessarily passing through the Secretary of State for the Budget ".
"A malicious attempt at misinformation"
"The DGFIP, who had been told that by definition there was never any intervention on our part on subjects, could come to us and say" here are the delicate subjects that I have in my portfolio ", (…) or I do not remember that he has put it back in the delicate files, "said AFP Michel Sapin, at the time Minister of Finance. "When a file is not reported to us as delicate, it is that it is not delicate, it is that it is treated in a completely normal way," he said.
In India, the Ministry of Defense found that any link between this tax issue and the Rafale case was "totally inaccurate", referring to "a malicious attempt at misinformation". The Rahul Gandhi Congress Party has been denouncing the Rafale contract for several years. One of his spokesmen accused Narendra Modi on Saturday of playing the role of "middleman" for his friend Anil Ambani.
In late November 2018, the French NGO Sherpa filed a complaint on suspicion of bribery and influence peddling surrounding the sale of Rafale to India in 2016 by Dassault Aviation. In particular, the NGO denounced the conditions surrounding the choice of its Indian partner, Reliance.