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Did offset contract of Scorpene deal go to an ex-business partner of Rahul Gandhi?

PW Bureau

The fact remains that Gandhi’s former business partner benefited through the European subsidiaries of an Indian offset partner which was contracted during UPA era

New Delhi: Even as Congress continues to accuse the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime at the Centre of favouritism in the procurement of Rafale jets, documents accessed by India Today have shown that a company, where Congress president Rahul Gandhi used to be a co-promoter, won offset contracts from a French firm during the UPA regime.

Gandhi held majority share in the firm between 2003-09

Gandhi was the co-promoter of a UK firm called Backops Limited and owned a majority 65 percent equity between 2003 and 2009. The remaining 35 percent was held by Ulrik Mcknight. In an election affidavit filed in 2004, Gandhi had declared movable assets belonging to Backops Europe, including bank balance in its three accounts.

This firm was dissolved in 2009. However, documents showed that Mcknight later went on to acquire offset contracts from French defence supplier Naval Group against Scorpene submarines in 2011. As a result of this, subsidiaries associated with Mcknight received defence contract as an offset partner of the French firm Naval Group during the UPA regime.

The deal

As part of the defence deal signed in 2011, French defence manufacturing company Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) signed a contract with Visakhapatnam-based Flash Forge Private Limited for the supply of critical parts for the Scorpene submarines being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL).

The French company was to work with MDL to build six Scorpene submarines under a contract worth approximately Rs 20,000 crore. In the same year, Flash Forge acquired a UK-based firm Optical Armour Limited. On November 8, 2012, two directors at Flash Forge were given directorship of Optical Armour Limited. And on the same day, Mcknight was also given directorship in the company. Additionally, Mcknight was also given 4.9 percent shares by the firm.

In 2013, Flash Forge acquired another UK-based company named Composit Resin Developments Limited. And once again, Mcknight joined the company as one of the directors along with two directors from Flash Forge Limited. According to information provided on the website of the French firm, their India partners include Flash Forge and CFF Fluid Control Private Limited (a joint venture between Flash Forge and another French group Coyard).

Even though the Indian and European companies associated with Rahul Gandhi were dissolved before the French company Naval Group won the defence contract and worked with Flash Forge, the fact remains that Gandhi’s former business partner benefited through the European subsidiaries of an Indian offset partner which was contracted during UPA era.