Rafale fighter. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Feb 17 : At the height of the Rafale jet controversy, dealings of a leading European manufacturer of missiles MBDA has come under the scanner of Indian investigating agencies. MBDA is a major missile supplier for the Rafale jets and is involved in the Rs 30,000 crore offset programme associated with the 36 warplanes.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned the country head of MBDA to join the probe in connection with the company's links to corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar.

Talwar, who was extradited from Dubai last month, is believed to have piloted several deals with Airbus, which holds a stake in MBDA, during the UPA regime, according to a government official.

Multiple sources confirmed that the India head of MBDA, Loïc Piedevache, has been asked to appear before the Delhi unit of ED on Monday. The sources claimed that apart from questions on the company's engagement with the Indian forces, Piedevache would also be questioned on the payments to Talwar's NGO.

According to the sources, Talwar's NGO Advantage India was paid Rs 88 crore between June 11, 2012 and April 17, 2015, from MBDA and Airbus. Later, the entire money was withdrawn in cash by using "fake purchase", according to officials privy to the development.

Defence Ministry sources said that this was a rare occasion that the country head of a European defence giant was being summoned to join a probe.

Piedevache has been heading the company's operations in India for a decade. The Mirage upgrade programme, and Rafale, was signed during Piedevache's tenure in India and he would be privy to information, claimed a government source.

"If required, the probe agency may also summon the group export director Jean-Luc Lamothe. First of all, Piedevache would be asked to explain the company's payments to Talwar's NGO," an officer said.

Efforts to reach out to Piedevache went in vain. An MBDA spokesperson said: "MBDA will support the authorities in their queries, and doesn't comment on ongoing investigations. We remain fully committed to the Indian market."
The company claimed that it has participated in many social development programmes in India as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. This could include the payments made to Advantage India.

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