The curious Rafale deal
Though there are no fingers pointed at anyone in particular in the $11 billion Rafale jet fighter deal, it certainly has strange connections and cross connections
There have been allegations that pressure from the highest political level, and possibly a huge under-the-table payment, dictated India's decision to plump for the Rafale jet fighter made by Dassault of France. The order is for 126 fighter-jets worth an immense $11 billion. These jets are meant to replace the country's ageing fleet of MiG 21s, which make up one-third of the Air force's jet fighters.
Collateral evidence has emerged, through research by Subramanian Swamy and our searches on Google and other internet sites, that blood relations and close friendships at the top political level probably tilted the scales in favour of the Rafale. There is as yet no evidence that Dassault paid a huge bribe to India's first family, though the possibility cannot be ruled out, given the current milieu in India.
It is a tangled skein and one end of the thread begins with T Anantha Krishnan, popularly called TAK. He is the son of a Sri Lankan Tamil immigrant, who was an indentured plantation worker.TAK was reputedly close to K Padbanabhan, money manager of the LTTE, who is now in jail in Sri Lanka.
TAK has no further role in this tale, except that his wife is Latchoumie Marie Helene, born to a white French father who belongs one of the ancient families of France and a Tamil mother. She is popularly known as Mme TAK and Latchoumie is probably the Frenchified version of Lakshmi, a common Tamil name...
Mme TAK, is the owner of La Fantaisie, a very big art gallery and auction house in Paris, which can be described as the Christie's of France. Carla Bruni, the Italian wife of Nicholas Sarkozy who was the French president when the Rafale deal was inked, is a partner in this venture for the past two years.
Mme TAK is also owner of a sophisticated music recording house in Paris. Carla, who is also a pop singer, uses Mme TAK's studios for registering and issuing her albums.
She counts among her good friends Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia's sisters who frequently visit her in France and stay in her chateau. Rahul Gandhi stayed with her when he went to France in early 2012.
Mme TAK owns vineyards in northern Colombia with jointly with rich Colombian families called Bettancourt and Katalli. Rahul Gandhi's former live in girl-friend Veronique is connected to the Kattallis.
Now comes the interesting point. Mme TAK is one of the shareholders of Dassault.
Carla Bruni is Italian born. She is related by marriage to Sonia Gandhi: Carla is a cousin of Sonia Gandhi's sister's daughter-in-law.
Discussions are still going on between India's defence ministry and Dassault, particularly on the 'offset' condition under which around 50% of the aircraft will have to be built by Indian manufacturers.
A couple of months ago, Moneylife wrote on the choice of the Rafale. The headline of the story was "Look out, Mr Antony, Little Brother is watching you".
This is Little Brother signing off, till the next instalment.
R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at email@example.com).
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