Le Monde, a French daily newspaper, 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.
The hit job carried out by Le Monde on Rafale deal looks like a newspaper’s attempt to bring the ‘truth’ out in public. But if go in further details, the real intentions behind this come out. The case is more like two competitors on the different side of the political spectrum trying to malign each other. For example, we see that Zee News and NDTV have a polar opposite stance on any matter of national importance worthy of a debate. The prime time journalists of both news channels target each other directly or indirectly.
Le Fiagaro, a Dassault group owned Centre-right leaning newspaper is major competitor of Le Monde. Both are the national dailies and French newspaper of record. Le Fiagaro is ahead of Le Monde in terms of circulation like Zee news is ahead of NDTV. Le Fiagaro is centre-right like Zee news and Le Monde is centre-left like NDTV. So, it is possible that Le Monde did the hit job to malign the Dassault group and get ahead of Le Fiagaro in competition.
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 Le Monde story was promptly picked up by Indian media dutifully parroting the lines without any critical investigation into 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.
As per the defence ministry’s press released 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.
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.