- A multi-billion aviation scam took place during the UPA-era led by Manmohan Singh (2004-2014),
- The then aviation minister Praful Patel has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED),
- First major action against a political leader in the aviation scam,
- Aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar arrested earlier revealed evidences of undue favors to other airlines and losses to Air India.
On March 30 this year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a charge sheet against the accused corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar, in which the name of Praful Patel had come up.
The agency in its charge sheet had alleged that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel.
“Talwar finalised various communications on behalf of Emirates, Air Arabia to be addressed to then Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel,” Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) DP Singh, appearing for the agency, told Special CBI Judge Anuradha Shukla Bhardwaj on May 1.
Talwar has been charged with criminal conspiracy, forgery and under various other sections of the FCRA for allegedly diverting Rs 90.72 crore worth of foreign funds meant for ambulances and other articles received by his NGO from Europe’s leading missile manufacturing company.
His role in some aviation deals during the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) regime at the Centre is under the scanner as well.
Talwar was booked by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in criminal cases of corruption, while the Income Tax Department charged him with tax evasion. He was arrested by the ED early this year after he was deported from Dubai.
Talwar was extradited by Dubai authorities on January 30 along with Dubai-based businessman Rajeev Saxena. The ED had alleged that Talwar was involved in cases related to corporate lobbying.
Talwar is accused of facilitating the dispersal of profit making routes of Air India to private airlines using his contacts. He obtained various facilities in the aviation sector, increased seat entitlements/points of call for air traffic rights, consultancy service for the operation of airlines etc, for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways
On February 13, the Indian media had reported that three years after Indian Airlines signed a deal to purchase 43 aircraft from Airbus, the French aircraft manufacturer incorporated a company in partnership with Deepak Talwar and transferred USD 10.5 million in its accounts. The company based out of Singapore has Talwar’s son Aditya as one of the directors.
The ED had recently filed a charge sheet in the case naming Deepak Talwar. It had said that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel. He used to finalise various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia. The investigation revealed that Talwar obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts.
“There is evidence including e-mail conversations between Deepak and Patel,” the probe agency told the court.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned and former aviation minister Praful Patel. It has asked him to appear before the investigating officer for interrogation on June 6. This is in connection with the airline seat allotment scam case during his tenure. This is a part of a money laundering probe related to alleged losses suffered by national carrier Air India.
Patel is presently a member of the Rajya Sabha, and a senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader.
Patel needs to clarify certain revelations made by Talwar and other evidences unearthed by the ED in pursuit of this case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Patel’s response in Mumbai:
“I will be happy to cooperate with ED for their understanding of the complexities of the aviation industry.”
Talking to media, Patel has stated:
“The matter pertains to bilateral agreements for the exchange of flying rights between two governments where any private individual has no role to play.”
“Flying rights are equal for both the respective countries. This policy has been in practice for the past 60 years or more and till date irrespective of any government.”
“This issue has also been examined in great details by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which says that ‘the liberalised policy towards bilateral entitlements benefited Indian traveler considerably in terms of choices and lower tariffs.”
“Moreover, the CAG report does not point out any loss incurred by the exchequer and has not indicated any government functionaries or pointed out any lacunae in the process.”
ED had told the court earlier that it was trying to find out the names of officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) and Air India, who favoured foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, by making the national carrier gave up profit-making routes and timings.
“It has been alleged that officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation, NACIL and Air India, by abusing their official position as public servants and receiving illegal gratification, in conspiracy with other public servants, private domestic and foreign airlines, made the national carrier gave up profit making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international domestic and foreign private airlines.
“This resulted in a huge loss of market share to the national carrier and also led to pecuniary benefits to private domestic and foreign airlines,” ED’s advocate AR Aditya had told the court.
India held bilateral meetings with Dubai, Sharjah and Qatar after which there has been an increase in the seat entitlements for both the contracting countries and increase in points of call for foreign carriers, it said.
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