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French NGO Sherpa: Complaint or meddling in politics for Rafael Deal?

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swadesi
An ordinary citizen who believes what's Right is always Right

A French judge has been appointed to lead a judicial investigation into suspected “corruption” and “favouritism” over the 7.8-billion-euro sale to India of 36 Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter aircraft, Mediapart can reveal. The highly sensitive probe into the inter-governmental deal signed off in in 2016 was formally opened on June 14th.

Since then, a lot has been in the air. Here are few facts which many are unaware of.

The Complaint has been filed by a French anti-corruption NGO Sherpa with the tribunal of Paris, citing “corruption”, “influence peddling”, “money laundering”, “favouritism” and undue tax wavering surrounding the deal. Here are a few facts about the NGO Sherpa and the founder William Bourdon.

The Mauritanian Quagmire

Probably one of the major cases of Sherpa and William Bourdon is their involvement in what can be termed as a political tussle in Mauritania. Sherpa brought a lawsuit against Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz which was essentially bankrolled by Aziz’s political opponent and his cousin, Mohamed Ould Bouamatou. The allegations were unproven and Sherpa did not follow through on this. However, the relationship Bourdon and Boumataou developed endured. Both were board members in a firm called Foundation for Equal Opportunities in Africa, founded by Boumataou. Although, their political ambitions in terms of Mauritania did not come to fruition, Sherpa benefitted greatly from this relationship. According to the International Policy Digest, for the year of 2015 Sherpa received funding of €483,191 from Foundation for Equal Opportunities in Africa, the sum was the entire yearly budget of Sherpa.

As far as Boumataou is concerned, he is under an international arrest warrant issued by the Mauritanian authorities after being indicted for corruption in country in August 2017. In July 2018, a case was also filed against him in France regarding money laundering charges. Even the president of Sherpa has acknowledged this financial relationship between Bourdon’s organization and Boumataou. The close relationship between Boumataou and his foundation’s large contributions to Sherpa is just tip of the iceberg of the financial improprieties of the organization which claims to fight against economic offences

Affinity for frivolous lawsuits and unsubstantiated allegation

Critics of Bourdon and Sherpa have pointed out the organisation’s insatiable appetite for publicity with regard to their frequently frivolous lawsuits against companies in cases which could gain them ‘maximum media exposure’. The charges are not without merit. Two of the biggest lawsuits Sherpa has filed were against Samsung and Vinci Construction Company. Sherpa had accused the Vinci Construction of being involved in Human rights abuses in Qatar. The organization had filed a lawsuit against the Construction firm which was dismissed by the French Prosecutor in February 2018 due to lack of evidence. Vinci construction had also filed a defamation case against Sherpa the proceedings of which are still ongoing.

The lawsuit filed against the Samsung met with more or less similar fate. Sherpa had filed the suit in January 2018 against Samsung. In March 2018, Public Prosecutor’s office in Paris decided to close the case after primary investigations, citing lack of proof.

Sherpa’s motives for these lawsuits were perhaps best described by Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, the lawyer for Vinci Construction. “They file a complaint and their objective is met. The bigger the company, the bigger the media interest.”

So, it comes as no surprise that an NGO fuelled by one man’s ego to garner headlines around the world, meddle in domestic politics making strange bedfellows, have decided to throw its hat in an ongoing Rafale deal controversy with which it has nothing to do. It would be surprising if Sherpa is taken seriously by anyone. This is the supposed rogue guardian against which there is a need for guards.

Case 1 Probably one of the major cases of Sherpa & William Bourdon is involvement in political tussle in Mauritania. Sherpa filed a lawsuit against Mauritanian president Md Ould Abdel Aziz which was bankrolled by Aziz’s political opponent and his cousin, Mohamed Ould Bouamatou. The allegations were Unproven and Sherpa did not follow through on this. However, the relationship Bourdon and Boumataou developed endured. Both were board members in a firm called Foundation for Equal Opportunities in Africa, founded by Boumataou.

Although, their political ambitions did not come to fruition, Sherpa benefited greatly from this. In 2015 Sherpa received funding of €483,191 from Foundation for Equal Opportunities in Africa, the sum was the entire yearly budget of Sherpa. Boumataou is under an international arrest warrant issued by the Mauritanian authorities after being indicted for corruption in August 2017. Even the president of Sherpa has acknowledged this financial relationship between Bourdon’s organization and Boumataou.

Case2: Two of the biggest lawsuits Sherpa has filed were against Samsung and Vinci Construction Company. Sherpa had accused the Vinci Construction of being involved in Human rights abuses in Qatar.

Sherpa had filed a lawsuit against the Construction firm which was dismissed by the French Prosecutor in February 2018 due to lack of evidence. Vinci construction filed a defamation case against Sherpa.

The lawsuit filed against Samsung met with more or less similar fate. Sherpa had filed the suit in January 2018. In March 2018, Public Prosecutor’s office in Paris decided to close the case after primary investigations, citing lack of proof. https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/samsungs-response-to-sherpa-case/

So, it comes as no surprise that an NGO fueled by one man’s ego to garner headlines around the world, meddle in domestic politics making strange bedfellows, have decided to throw its hat in an ongoing Rafale deal controversy with which it has nothing to do. #Rafaledeal #Rafale

Case 3: A Report published in International Policy Digest, the relatives of Mauritanian president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Abdel Aziz, have filed a case of defamation against Sherpa after it in collaboration with the cousin of the president.

Quite clearly, Sherpa have acquired widespread notoriety for their antics around the world. It does not bode well for political discourse in the country that people are willing to take the claims of anyone as gospel truth without verifying their credentials.

Earlier, the Parquet National Financier PNF had turned down Sherpa’s request for a probe in the Rafale deal in 2018. Earlier in 2018 the same complaint was nonetheless dismissed in June 2019 for absence of an offence.

Supreme Court’s clean chit to NDA After hearing the writ petition seeking cancellation on the inter government agreement, Supreme Court asked the Central Government to submit the details of the decision-making procedure in the #Rafaledeal. Henceforth, after evaluating in Dec 2019, the court dismissed all petitions seeking a probe into the alleged irregularities in the deal, and gave a clean chit to the Union government on all the three aspects, the decision making, pricing and selection of offset partner.

CAG report’s findings, corroborated the Modi government’s stand that, under the inter government agreement, better terms had been achieved in terms of better pricing, better maintenance terms and better delivery schedule.

The price of the 36 Rafale aircraft in the 2016 deal was 2.86% lower than the comparable price based on the UPA-negotiated deal, as per CAG.

Why did Dassault choose Reliance as offset Partner? First and foremost, DRAL is not the manufacturer of #Rafale, it is an offset partner as per the agreement obligations related to 36 Rafale by India through a Joint venture created which manufactures and assembles aero structures. In an exclusive interview with Economic Times in 2018, Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation, had clarified that all these allegations for favouritism was baseless and incorrect. This is what he said; listen to his interview.

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swadesi
swadesi
An ordinary citizen who believes what's Right is always Right
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