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No middlemen in Mirage deal: IAF chief

October 26, 2004 03:02 IST

Indian Air Force chief S Krishnaswamy on Monday stoutly denied 'middlemen or agents' were involved in the multi-million dollar deal for purchase of 10 Mirage fighters from French company Dassault.

The IAF proposes to go ahead with the deal to purchase 140 more of the multi-role aircraft.

"Clearly there were no middlemen or agents involved when the deal was signed in September 2000. It is a fact," he said when asked to comment on media reports of a Panamanian company acting as middlemen.

Quoting documents obtained by the Indian embassy in Paris, Krishnaswamy said Dassault had hired the Panamanian company Kayser for some market-related research in the region, but its services were terminated in 1998, much before the Indian contract was signed.

Reacting to media reports that a French court had upheld that Kayser had worked to swing the Indian deal in favour of Dassault, Krishnaswamy told reporters that his information said the Panamanian company had lost the case as also an appeal against the verdict.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, when approached, declined to comment on the issue.

After the Bofors kickbacks controversy, the government had banned middlemen in all defence deals and this principle was upheld when the authorities recently announced setting up of a new top-level procurement board for defence purchases.

The IAF chief said that all negotiations for the 10 new Mirages followed established government 'norms' and 'practices'.

Krishnaswamy said that 10 additional Mirages, which were to be delivered early this year, had been delayed and are expected to be inducted into the IAF by the year-end.

On the move to purchase 140 more multi-role aircraft, Krishnaswamy said that the IAF, after going through bids by a number of arms majors, had submitted its proposal to the ministry of defence. Besides Dassault, Russian companies Mikoyan and Sukhoi as well as US-based Lockheed had made a bid for the deal.

"We have completed our qualitative requirements and now the final proposal is with the ministry", Krishnaswamy said.

IAF requires these multi-role aircraft to keep up its present fighting squadron strength of almost 40 squadrons in view of the proposed phasing out of 300 aging MiG-21 fighters in the next two years.

Referring to the two recent crashes of Mirage fighters in quick succession near their home base in Gwalior, the IAF chief said a team of experts from the French Air Force and Dassault was in the country to probe the causes.

Till the two crashes, the IAF's Mirage fleet had a comparatively excellent record in flight safety.

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