Break-in at sensitive Indian military office near Paris: Prosecutor

NANTERRE, FRANCE (AFP) - Documents and money have been stolen from an office used by Indian military personnel near Paris, a French prosecutor said on Wednesday (May 23), with the break-in thought to be linked to India's purchase of French Rafale fighter jets.

The robbery took place overnight Saturday-Sunday in Saint-Cloud, a suburb west of Paris, near the offices of France's Dassault Aviation, which is building 36 fighter jets for the Indian military under a highly controversial contract.

An investigation has been opened, a source in the local prosecutor's office told AFP on condition of anonymity, confirming that "documents and money" had been taken.

Indian news agency ANI, citing unidentified Indian Air Force officials, reported that the robbery occurred at the office of the Indian Rafale project management team.

The Hindustan Times newspaper suggested it could have been a spying attempt on an US$9.4 billion (S$12.96 billion) arms purchase that has dogged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since it was signed in 2016.

Military personnel in the project office are responsible for overseeing the production schedule for the jets while training for maintenance and flight operations, the newspaper said.

The opposition Congress party has accused Mr Modi of corruption and favouritism in handing the deal to Dassault and stipulating that the French group had to work with a conglomerate owned by the Indian tycoon Anil Ambani.

Dassault initially won a contract negotiated under a Congress government in 2012 to supply 126 jets to India, with 18 built in France and the rest in India by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Mr Modi denies the allegations of misconduct.

The Hindu nationalist leader looks on course to secure a second term in office after elections.

Neither Dassault Aviation nor the Indian embassy in Paris was available to comment on the break-in when contacted by AFP.

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