Indian court seeks pricing of Rafale jet deal with France

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India's top court on Wednesday ordered the government to provide pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets it is buying from France.

The court said the government must bring details of the decision-making process of the deal into the public domain, except those that are confidential and have strategic importance. The court said those can be provided in a "sealed cover" within 10 days.

The deal has become a major political issue with the leader of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of buying the aircraft at nearly three times the price being negotiated when his party was in power before Modi became prime minister in 2014.

The government has refuted the claim, but says a secrecy clause governs the deal's pricing. It hasn't even informed Parliament about the cost of the 36 planes.

The court was hearing petitions by former ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and some others who demanded a court-monitored probe by a federal investigating agency in the deal.

Gandhi also accused Modi's government of favoring the company owned by industrialist Anil Ambani, Reliance Group, when choosing an Indian partner for Dassault.

India's government has denied any wrongdoing. Dassault Aviation recently said that it "has freely chosen to make a partnership with India's Reliance Group."

The French company said that it had committed to side deals in India worth 50 percent of the value of the jet purchases. In order to deliver those side deals, it had decided to create a joint venture with Reliance Group.

The controversy has intensified following comments last month by former French President Francois Hollande — who was in charge when the deal was signed in 2016 — suggesting France had no say in selecting the Indian company.

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USCIS Adjusting Premium Processing Fee

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today it is adjusting the premium processing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers beginning on Oct. 1, 2018 to more effectively adjudicate petitions and maintain effective service to petitioners.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,410, a 14.92 percent increase (after rounding) from the current fee of $1,225. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010 based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers.

“Because premium processing fees have not been adjusted since 2010, our ability to improve the adjudications and service processes for all petitioners has been hindered as we’ve experienced significantly higher demand for immigration benefits. Ultimately, adjusting the premium processing fee will allow us to continue making necessary investments in staff and technology to administer various immigration benefit requests more effectively and efficiently,” said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Moore. “USCIS will continue adjudicating all petitions on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable law, policies, and regulations.”

Premium processing is an optional service that is currently authorized for certain petitioners filing Forms I-129 or I-140. The system allows petitioners to request 15-day processing of certain employment-based immigration benefit requests if they pay an extra fee. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base filing fee and any other applicable fees, which cannot be waived.