Nirmala Sitharaman hits out at Hollande over Rafale

Reliance Entertainment has refuted the allegations, saying that no payments were made to Gayet.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2018 23:44 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
nirmala sitharaman,francois hollande,rafale
Chennai: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference at Officers Training Academy (OTA), in Chennai, Saturday, Sept 29, 2018. (PTI)

Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman Saturday said former French president Francois Hollande’s claims on the Rafale deal had come at a time when he himself was facing allegations that his partner had received “some funds for some purpose”.

Sitharaman was apparently referring to reports, which suggested that Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Entertainment had signed a pact to finance a film by French actress producer Julie Gayet, partner of Francois Hollande, in a quid pro quo deal for getting the Rafale offset contract.

Reliance Entertainment has refuted the allegations, saying that no payments were made to Gayet.

The reports had suggested that Reliance Entertainment had signed the pact with Gayet’s company ahead of Hollande’s 2016 India visit and India signing a pact to acquire 36 Rafale fighter aircraft under a government-to-government deal.

Speaking to reporters at the Officers Training Academy here, Sitharaman said, “... here was the former president of France who himself is facing an allegation of his associate having received some funds for some purpose. It (allegation) may be true or may not be true. But in such a situation, the former president saying this...”

On September 21, a French media report quoted Hollande as purportedly saying that India proposed Reliance Defence as partner for Dassault Aviation in the ~58,000-crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.

The defence minister also took a swipe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s August 30 tweet, saying he seemed to be predicting Hollande’s actions well in advance. “...it is done well in advance. It is very interesting.”

On August 30, Gandhi tweeted “Globalised corruption. This #Rafale aircraft really does fly far and fast! It’s also going to drop some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks. Modi ji please tell Anil, there is a big problem in France.”

To a question on much-delayed S-400 deal with Russia, Sitharaman said the deal was almost at a stage where it could be finalised.

The minister’s statement comes on a day when Gandhi launched a fresh attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “See what wonders the Saheb (Modi) has done/look at the Rafale murk/ the falling rupee, the rising oil,” Gandhi tweeted.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 23:29 IST