Rafale deal over the past few days have sent the government reeling.The Congress alleges that the government went for an overpriced deal for Rafale jets to benefit Anil Ambani

NEW DELHI:MNN:Rafale deal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “acting as Anil Ambani’s middleman”, Rahul Gandhi said today in his latest allegation linked to the Rafale controversy,

citing an email that he said revealed the industrialist had visited Paris and met with the French Defence Minister 10 days before the PM went there and announced the 36-jet deal with France.

On Tuesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi called a bare-knuckled press conference to accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi not just of corruption, but also of compromising national security.

Rafale deal: The Rafale aircraft deal was finalised and announced during around a fortnight before Modi’s visit of March in 2015 to Paris to hold talks with then French president Francois Hollande.

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 The press conference was a report published in The Indian Express on Tuesday that showed that entrepreneur Anil Ambani had held meetings with then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drien and three of his advisors in the fourth week of March in 2015.

Holding up a copy of the email, Rahul Gandhi said: “Anil Ambani, who met the French Defence Minister, mentioned an MoU he is looking forward to sign after the Indian prime minister’s visit to France.

Mr Ambani says he is first looking to make commercial helicopters. This is a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

The PM is the only other person who knows about this

Rafale deal was finalised and announced during this visit, although it was signed over a year later.

According to an official who had been briefed about Ambani’s meeting, the report said, he had expressed the desire to work with Airbus Helicopters on both civil and defence projects.

Damagingly, he was also reported as having mentioned a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ‘in preparation and the intention to sign during the prime minister’s visit’.

This MoU is construed to be the one for the Rafale deal

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence said in a statement that “facts are being deliberately twisted and reality being ignored” and that the visit had nothing to do with Rafale.

A spokesperson says the industrialist visited France to discuss a deal for more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopters for which the government had sought information from international helicopter manufacturers in 2015.

“The purported email being referred by the Congress party is regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence regarding Civil and Defence Helicopter Programs under ‘Make in India‘.

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Discussion on proposed MoU was clearly with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance.

It had NO connection whatsoever with Government to Government Agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft,” said a Reliance Defence spokesperson.

Airbus refused to confirm the Reliance Defence statement, “This has no link with Airbus; we do not comment”

At this point of time, neither then defence minister Manohar Parrikar nor then foreign secretary S Jaishankar knew about the announcement.

The latter had, in fact, on the eve of the prime minister’s departure told the media that in his ‘understanding’,

discussions were underway between the defence ministry, ‘the French company’, ie Dassault, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which, it had been envisaged, would manufacture a majority of the aircraft by means of a transfer of technology.

The Indian government made ‘unprecedented’ concessions to the French side in sealing the deal.

The report noted that eight changes were made to the inter-governmental agreement by the Defence Acquisition Council after it had been ratified and approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The most significant of these were the decisions to drop anti-corruption provisions in the agreement, usually a standard feature, by non-inclusion of penalties for the exercise of ‘undue influence’ and related provisions, and the decision to drop the provision for making payments through escrow accounts.

All the changes were made days before the agreement was finally signed, The Hindu reports.

The Supreme Court in December refused to investigate the deal worth an alleged 8.7 billion dollars and rejected petitions that alleged corruption, including the choice of Anil Ambani‘s firm as domestic partner.

But the opposition says the government concealed vital information.

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