New Delhi : Construction of the French-Spanish Scorpene submarines in India is proceeding on target, an official of French military major Thales said, even as he welcomed a court order to probe allegations of wrongdoing in the 2.4 billion euro deal.
“The project is on track. For a project of this magnitude, it is going extremely well,” the official said, belying reports that the construction of six Scorpene submarines at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dockyard had been delayed.
In fact, the company is expecting an Indian Navy tender later this year for the second batch of six submarines.
A French team of engineers had been posted at Mumbai soon after the Scorpene deal was signed in October 2005 and their numbers have now been ramped up.
“We had posted a small team in March (2006) to oversee the construction of the submarines along with Indian designers and engineers and the number has now gone up to 15,” the official said.
India had signed the Scorpene contract with Thales, which subsequently sold its submarine operations to DCNS, a company in which it holds a 25 percent stake with the balance 75 percent held by the French government.
The Delhi High Court had last week given the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) three months to complete a probe into allegations that bribes were paid to secure the Scorpene deal. Newsmagazine Outlook first carried the allegations that were later picked up by other media outlets.
“Thales is obviously pleased with the decision of the high court in ordering an enquiry into the allegations by the Outlook magazine with respect to the Scorpene contract,” the official said.
“It has been many months since Outlook printed and published completely inaccurate allegations against Thales,” he pointed out.
“It has also been many months since Thales initiated judicial proceedings for defamation against Outlook, and until today, Outlook has been unable and unwilling to come up with any evidence or anything else substantiating, in any acceptable manner whatsoever, its allegations,” the official added.
According to him, the public suit in the high court, on the basis of which the CBI had been asked to proceed, had not “demonstrated anything against Thales substantiating in any way the allegations of Outlook against Thales.
Noting that the company had asked to be made a party to the public suit, the official said: “Thales intends to fully cooperate with the CBI whenever required to.
“Thales looks forward to Outlook replying to the questions within the continuation of the PIL (public suit) and is absolutely confident everything will confirm that the allegation made by Outlook against Thales will be proven totally false.”