Millennium Post

Tax concession by France to Anil Ambani cos is 'Modi kripa': Cong

New Delhi: Firing a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale issue, the Congress on Saturday alleged that the 143.7 million euro French tax waiver to Anil Ambani's telecom company in 2015, after India announced the fighter jet deal, was due to PM Modi's "blessings" as he acted as a "middleman" for the businessman.

"This is called zero sum choices, startling tax concession and Modi 'kripa' (blessings)," Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters here while referring to a French newspaper report that France waived taxes of the Reliance Communications' subsidiary.

The Defence Ministry termed as mischievous and inaccurate the attempts to draw a connection between the tax issue and the Rafale deal and said they are aimed at disinforming public.

Reliance Communications also rejected allegations of wrongdoing and said the tax dispute was settled under legal framework which is available for all companies operating in France.

Surjewala alleged that the "murky layers of corruption and money trail" in the Rafale saga are out.

"PM Modi is acting as middleman for Anil Ambani. How many other companies in France have got a tax benefit? Is this not a quid pro quo for the purchase of aircraft? It is clear only one watchman is the thief," the Congress spokesperson said.

"Those that have Modi's blessings can get anything. If Modiji is there, then it is possibile. (Modi ji ki kripa jispar ho jaye uska kuch bhi ho sakta hai, Modi hai to mumkin hai)," he said taunting the BJP with its poll slogan.

French newspaper Le Monde said the French tax authorities accepted 7.3 million euros from Reliance Flag Atlantic France as a settlement as against original demand of 151 million euros. Reliance Flag owns a terrestrial cable network and other telecom infrastructure in France.

Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.

The Congress has been alleging favouritism and corruption in the deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating the deal.

The government and the BJP have maintained that there has been no wrongdoing in the deal.

Surjewala said, "How does Modiji's friend Anil Ambani only get these benefits? That too a company which has virtually no business?"

He also gave a timeline of events to support his claim.

"On March 23, 2015, Anil Ambani met French defence officials. Till then the contract to build 128 Rafale was with HAL. On April 10, 2015, PM Modi discards the old Rafale deal and announces a new deal worth Rs 7.8 billion, Surjewala said.

The Congress leader said after PM Modi announced the new Rafale deal, France cancelled the tax recovery worth 143.7 million euros of a company belonging to Anil Ambani.

"Between 2007-2010, France demands tax from Reliance Flag Atlantic France worth Euro 60 mn. Later between 2010-12, Euro 51mn additional tax was levied on the company.

"On September 21, 2018, Francois Hollande states that he was given no choice by PM Modi but to choose Anil Ambani's company (as offset partner), Surjewala said.

Surjewala claimed that in 2017-18, Dassault Aviation deposited Rs 284 crore in the bank account of an inactive company Reliance Airport Developers Ltd. "This took place when the government of India was making advance payments to Dassault Aviation," he said.

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