In a crucial development, former civil aviation minister and NCP leader Praful Patel will not appear in the summon by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scheduled on June 6, Thursday, sources said. The ED had summoned him regarding money-laundering probe related to the losses suffered by national carrier Air India as part of an alleged multi-crore-rupee aviation scam. Patel (62) has also been named in a recent charge sheet filed by the federal agency before a court as a person known to alleged aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar.
Citing 'prior commitments', Patel has said that he will request the ED to give him another date for the questioning. However, the ED is yet to decide on the request.
The ED was supposed to record a statement of Patel, a Rajya Sabha MP, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The four-time MP from the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra had earlier told that he would be happy to cooperate with the ED for their understanding of the complexities of the aviation industry.The central agency has recently filed a chargesheet in the case, naming Talwar and claiming that he was in regular touch with Patel. It has alleged that Talwar finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia.
What is the case all about?
Officials sources told news agency PTI that Patel needs to be put through certain revelations made by arrested aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar and certain evidence unearthed by ED in pursuit of this case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED, which had recently filed a charge sheet in its case against Talwar, claimed that the lobbyist was in regular touch with Patel.
"There is evidence including e-mail conversations between Deepak and Patel," the probe agency told the court.
In the charge sheet, the ED claimed that Talwar allegedly finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia. According to the charge sheet, the investigation has revealed that Talwar allegedly obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts. Talwar is alleged to have favoured foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, by making Air India give up profit-making routes and timings.
According to the chargesheet, Talwar obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts. The agency has also alleged that Talwar was engaged in lobbying with politicians, ministers, other public servants and officials in the civil aviation ministry for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways in order to secure undue benefits to these airlines.
"He (Talwar) illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-09 at the cost of the national carrier, Air India," the ED has claimed.
It has also been alleged that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights, these airlines made payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore to Talwar during 2008-09.
"He created a web of his own entities and used the companies of his son, Aditya Talwar, in India and international offshore havens to launder Rs 272 crore received from foreign airlines. Part of these payments were made to a bank account in the Bank of Singapore, belonging to a company called Asiafield Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands and beneficially owned by Deepak Talwar," the agency had said in the chargesheet.
The ED had also told the court earlier that it was trying to find out the names of the officials in the civil aviation ministry, the National Aviation Company of India Ltd and Air India, who favoured foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, by making Air India give up profit-making routes and timings.
(inputs from PTI)