The last few years have seen a significant build-up of leftist French tabloid Mediapart’s profile in India. The fact that not even one of their sensationalist Rafale “exposés” have led to a single investigation in France – a country bound to strictly adhere to OECD anti-corruption guidelines & one that has sent several former Prime Ministers & Presidents to jail for corruption, should tell you a lot. The shadiness of the trashy tabloid in question apart – nobody in the Congress or Congress aligned, self-proclaimed “neutral” journalists could have foreseen how the Mediapart’s Rafale investigation was going to boomerang on them – essentially implicating them in corruption.
Mediapart’s modus operandi is much like that other leftist rag Caravan in India. It takes disjointed facts & weaves together a fanciful tale of innuendo. Mind you they don’t outright accuse, in fact, they tend to carefully caveat & couch their words such that if you took them to court accusing them of outright falsification, they could honestly deny the accusation.
Their first great “expose” on the Rafale was how ADAG had funded a film made by then French President Francois Hollande’s partner Julie Gayet. The implication was that this venture was set up specifically to get the offsets that ADAG ultimately bagged as part of the Rafale deal. The investigation simply showed that there was a chronology – in Mid 2015 Hollande’s partners film – set incidentally in India in the Himalayas – was part funded by ADAG. In Mid 2016 ADAG’s Reliance Defence was given a Rafale offset contract.
Now in order for this chronology to become a correlation (leave alone causation), you would have to assume that a whole bunch of French film industry folks would have to come up with a plot set in the Himalayas based on a true story & turn it into a movie, so that they could get funding from an Indian industrialist known for funding movies, so that one of them who happens to be the president’s partner then exercised influence on the president to talk to a private company to give part of the offset of a deal under negotiation to said film funding industrialist’s firm.
It should be obvious that this sequence is so ridiculous with so many possible failure points & so many tenuous links with so many breaks in interpersonal & organisational connections that even the term “correlation” can’t be used – more a case of string theory where a butterfly flapping its wings in Indonesia can lead to a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Mind you, Mediapart never made any of these correlations – merely implying and questioning – but never saying that the two events were connected.
That however was enough for Mediapart to become a cause celebre in India with a carefully crafted story now being treated as established fact, retrospectively proving both correlation and causation.
This brings us to the latest similarly crafted “expose” by Mediapart. Sequentially they show 3 separate things all related to an arms deal facilitator called Sushen Gupta :-
- That he was deep in the Rafale negotiations in 2012 with a congress government was peddling some sort of bribery racket.
- That he was able to access at least one document pertaining to the Rafale negotiations in ????
- That he was given an inflated contract in ???? For 1 million euros to procure 50 scale models of the Rafale for display across India.
Look at these three points carefully. On first glance they give the impression that Sushen, Rafale, Dassault, Modi, Amit Shah, Ambani are all connected. But then look a little closer.
The first which is backed up by WhatsApp messages shows that the government of the day – the Congress-led UPA government – was indeed linking the eventuality of signing the deal with Dassault to some payments.
The second – backed up by what is clearly a classified document – shows that the Sushen Gupta clearly had an inside source in the negotiating committee. Specifically, he knew 2 things – first that Eurofighter had offered a 20% reduction in price and that the negotiating committee intended to ask for India’s indigenous Astra missile to be integrated with the Rafale.
The third shows a clearly over bloated contract – what the inflation was for – to facilitate Sushen’s tax liability or for onward delivery remains unexplored or indeed if that payment was specifically related to the Rafale case.
Read- Dassault Aviation denies French media outlet allegations of irregularities in Rafale deal with India
If point one clearly shows that the Congress party was extorting bribes, then point two equally shows that the BJP was not. Why? For starters, integration of new weapons is a lucrative business and can cost between 100 to 300 million dollars per new weapon integrated because of all the tests that have to be done, software developed and product development of mechanisms to fix the missile onto the aircraft to name but a few.
Indeed, had this deal gone through with an associated price rise, we could have concluded there was corruption. The fact that it did not & that by Mediapart’s own admission the price remained pegged at 7.8 billion euros six months later shows this was a significant loss of business for Dassault. What’s more, in the six-month gap that the price remained frozen, India managed to negotiate a significantly expanded servicing and maintenance package compared to Qatar & Egypt at no increase in cost (again because as Mediapart tells us the price did not rise).
So, if we are to assume Mediapart’s implied string theory, and bribes were paid, then Dassault effectively paid for the information that it could not exploit for its commercial success in increasing contract value. Moreover, despite having an inside source it was forced to cough up extended servicing and maintenance agreements at the same cost. Clearly then whoever Sushen was bribing was too low level to affect decisions in favour of Dassault. What’s more, this person was clearly too low level to protect Sushen Gupta` from being arrested in another Congress era scandal and so risk exposure. Moreover, none of the WhatsApp transcripts released by Mediapart are similar to those of 2012 where Mr Gupta had significant high-level access to the government to know what ministers & CEOs were thinking.
Indeed, if we look back to 2015 we realise whatever commercial intelligence Gupta provided Dassault was of highly dubious value. That Eurofighter had reduced costs of the Eurofighter jet by 20% had been publicly reported in early 2014, Eurofighter’s letter offering a 20% price reduction had been reported within days of the offer being made & rumours of the Astra missile’s integration with the Rafale had already been circulating around 2012-2013. Why is it then that Mediaparts mole in ED chose to release to it the only two pieces of commercial intelligence that were perfectly worthless?
All of this fits into a pattern: Congress corruption, which Mediapart casually glosses over; Commercially useless intelligence carefully decontextualised to give the impression of a successful bribes-for-information racket; and a cheap low-level invoice inflation racket for static display toys. For effect, they throw in names like “Amit Shah”, “Narendra Modi”, “right wing”, “ultra nationalist” for effect. The jury is out on if Congress actually took the bribes Sushen’s WhatsApp messages claim. But what is indisputable is that Mediapart by far has nothing to do with journalism – just a mediocre ability to dig up unremarkable information, but to do a remarkable job in decontextualising and hyperbolising it.