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Political storm in India after the revelations of the "World" on the tax debt erased by France

In the midst of negotiations for the sale of Rafale aircraft, the French tax office has cleared 143.7 million euros of taxes claimed from an Indian industrialist close to the prime minister.

By Julien Bouissou Posted today at 20h31

Time to Reading 2 min.

The Indian industrial Anil Ambani, in September 2012.
Indian industrial Anil Ambani, in September 2012. Danish Siddiqui / REUTERS

The Congress Party wasted no time. Just three hours after the publication of the revelations of World on the cancellation, by France, of 143.7 million euros of tax debts to an Indian industrialist associated with Dassault, at the moment when the sale of the 36 Rafale was negotiated in 2015, the opposition party organized a conference release, Saturday, April 13 at midday.

On the third day of an electoral period in India that will end on May 19, the article found itself in the midst of a political storm. Congress Party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala brandished a photocopy in front of the cameras: "All who have the blessing of Modi [le premier ministre indien] can get what they want. When Modi is here, everything is possible. " A journalist present on the spot asked him if the French media did not peddle false news to scorch the image of Mr. Modi.

The Congress Party accuses for months Mr. Modi for having favored Anil Ambani, partner in India of the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault, in the contract of 36 Rafale sold in September 2016 for 7.9 billion euros. On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi, the party's president, repeated at an election rally that the Indian ruler had "Robbed 300 billion rupees (3.8 billion euros) to give it to his thief friend", adding that Mr. Modi was surrounded by a "Group of thieving friends". Narendra Modi has been accused for months by the opposition of being only an "intermediary" of Anil Ambani. Then the Communist Party went back into the controversy. "While this government refuses to erase the debts of peasants and students who are in a deplorable condition and commit suicide, it facilitates the erasure of debts for large companies", reacted D. Raja, one of its leaders.

Supporters of Modi in embarrassment

Mr. Modi's supporters, yet so quick to react and launch offensives on social media, were embarrassed. Should he attack? This would have been to recognize the involvement of Mr Modi in a case which directly concerns only the French State, Dassault and Anil Ambani. Some social media users have however accused The world to have been " purchased " by the Congress Party. More surprising was the reaction of the Indian Ministry of Defense. The latter issued a statement on Saturday early in the afternoon, in which he explains that "Any link established between a tax problem and the subject of the Rafale is an attempt to misinformation entirely, tendentious, malicious and inaccurate". What led the daily The Telegraph to be surprised at this "Curious communique", Insofar as "No one has accused the Ministry of Defense of anything".

Congress Party spokesman seized the opportunity to explain that the Indian Ministry of Defense had become the "Official spokesperson for big business". Social media star Dhruv Rathee, followed by 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube, has dedicated a video to the story.

For its part, the Reliance Communications group issued a statement on Saturday in which it explains that the taxes claimed by the French tax authorities were "Unsustainable and illegal" and disputed any favoritism in the tax deal it received. Mr. Modi did not react to the revelations of the World. During a trip to Karnataka on Saturday, he called the government of that state of southern India, of which the Congress is part, of "Government commission 20 to 30%", referring to the practice of kickbacks.

Read the survey: How France has cleared the tax debt of an Indian industrial associate of Dassault

Julien Bouissou (New Delhi, correspondence)

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