New Delhi: Dassault Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Trappier, in a path-breaking statement, revealed that the company was not forced by the Narendra Modi-led government to pick Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as its partner in the Rafale fighter jets deal.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Trappier claimed that Dassault picked up Reliance Defence as its partner as the latter had land near Nagpur, where they could set up a production facility. He also claimed that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was aware of its discussion with Reliance Defence.

Trappier’s statement comes against the claims made by former France president François Hollande that the country “did not choose Reliance in any way” for the deal. He had asserted that it was the Indian government which gave the name of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as its India partner in the Rafale jet deal. Hollande went on to say that Dassault Aviation had no choice but to ally with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Industries.

“We did not have a say in that. The Indian government proposed this service group, and Dassault negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor we were given,” Hollande had said in an interview, the parts of which were tweeted by French Newspaper LeMonde journalist Julien Boissou.

The Congress, meanwhile, has continued the attack on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue. Party President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, while addressing a press conference over over ‘removal’ of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma, said that the PM knew that CBI chief was to begin an inquiry into Rafale fighter jets deal and this made him scared and in turn, a panic-stricken PMO forced the CBI Director to go on leave at 2 AM to frantically bury the corruption track.

Earlier on Wednesday, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan moved the Supreme Court, seeking registration of an FIR into the Rafale deal between India and France, alleging “criminal misconduct” by top public functionaries.