Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel who failed to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Air India seat allotment scam citing prior commitments has been asked by the probe agency to appear before it on June 11.
"Due to my prior commitments, I have requested ED for another date," Patel had said earlier on Thursday.
On June 1 the ED had summoned the Rajya Sabha member to record his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on Thursday. However citing prior commitments, Patel was able to avoid questioning by the ED on deals for purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft and sharing of Air India’s profitable routes with international airlines.
The ED has already questioned and recorded the statements of several Air India officials and the then Civil Aviation Secretary and officials involved in the processing and finalising the agreements. On the basis of their findings, they were going to pose questions to Patel, however, his inability to turn up has caused a delay.
Praful Patel, 62, was named in a recent chargesheet filed by the probe agency before a court in connection to aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who had allegedly obtained undue favours for private airlines using his contacts.
However, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, who was in charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry between 2004 and 2011, has not been mentioned as an accused in the case.
It was alleged that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel and had finalised various communications addressed to him on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia. However, Praful Patel who was the Civil Aviation Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines took place denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Talwar, currently in judicial custody, was extradited to India from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January for his suspected role in the case. The ED is in the process of investigating how the money received in Talwar's accounts was transferred to government employees, including those in the Civil Aviation Ministry.