Even though the systemic propaganda against the Rafale jet has been thoroughly debunked and the deal has received a clean chit from the Supreme Court of India and the Comptroller and Auditor General, the attempts to malign the Rafale deal refuse to die down. The most recent such attempt happened today when French publication, Le Monde, published an article drawing an absurd parallel between Anil Ambani led telecom company in France receiving tax adjustment from the French government with irregularities in the Rafale deal. The story (in its most literal sense) states that the French government waived off taxes worth 143.7 million euros months after Rafale deal was signed and Anil Amabni led Reliance was made an offset partner in the deal. The story further states that between the year 2007-2010, Anil Ambani led ‘Reliance Atlantic Flag France’, a telecom company, had tax liability worth 60 million euros. Anil Ambani offered to pay a settlement amount of 7.3 million euros which was rejected by the French authorities. In 2012, French authorities, upon further investigation, found the company to be liable of taxes worth 90 million euros between the period of 2010-2012, effectively bringing the total tax liability to 151 million euros.
However, as the story goes, in 2015, French tax authorities waived off the unpaid tax liability on Anil Ambani led company. According to the story, the taxes were waived off six months after India signed the Rafale deal with France.
Tellingly, Le Monde has refused to publish the story in English citing the excuse ‘French are notoriously bad at English’.
We have decided not to run an English version because we dont want to be responsible for any translation error in a piece where every word matters. (you know how good the French are at english …)
— julien bouissou (@jubouissou) April 13, 2019
The Le Monde story was promptly picked up by Indian media dutifully parroting the lines without any critical investigation into the fact of the matter. The defence ministry, quashing the rumours, soon came out with a statement clarifying that there is absolutely no connection between the two events whatsoever.
— Defence Spokesperson (@SpokespersonMoD) April 13, 2019
As the defence ministry press release notes, the connections between the two transactions are absurd and are devoid of context. Firstly, as has been repeated multiple times, Anil Ambani led Reliance was chosen as the offset partner by Dassault and not by the French government. Dassault has also clarified on the same issue multiple times. Anil Ambani’s Reliance was one of the many offset partners chosen by Dassault to fulfill its offset obligations outlined under the terms of the agreement.
Moreover, tax adjustment between tax authorities and businesses is a routine matter. As recently as February, Apple had reached a settlement with French authorities on similar case of back taxes.
Does that entail wrongdoing on Apple’s part? Is that a definitive proof of quid pro quo, as the Le Monde suggests, of French tax authorities’ complicity with Apple on some issue that others have failed to notice? Not quite.
The story’s tenuous connections with two separate events are specifically sought out for political purpose, amidst the elections. The vested interests had opposed the deal with shoddy allegations and they will continue to do so, however, it is clear that the MO of hit-jobs is getting shoddier and more desperate by the day. This is one such shoddy and desperate attempt.