New Delhi: A senior Indian opposition leader on Tuesday accused the CEO of a French aviation company involved in a controversial fighter jet deal of “trying to hide the truth”.
Critics have alleged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi forced the firm to partner with billionaire Anil Ambani, despite his Reliance Group having almost no experience in the aviation sector.
Kapil Sibal, a lawyer and former cabinet minister, said Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier had deliberately tried in recent interviews to “muddy the waters” over the 2016 sale of 36 Rafale planes to India.
But in interviews with Indian media outlets last month it said that it had been forced to work with Reliance, arguing it offered key benefits such as land near an airport and cost-effectiveness.
The claims prompted further questions over the deal in Indian media amid scepticism from India’s opposition.
“Dassault now is trying to hide the truth, and unfortunately is falling into its own trap,” Sibal told reporters during a visit to London.
French investigative website Mediapart reported in early October on notes of a meeting between Dassault management and workers’ representatives which described the choice of Reliance as “imperative and compulsory”.
Weeks later India’s main opposition staged nationwide protests, accusing Modi of removing the head of the premier investigation agency in order to scuttle a probe into the case.
In an October statement, it insisted it had ‘freely chosen’ Reliance.