Praful Patel to appear before Enforcement Directorate again next week

PTI New Delhi Jun 12, 2019, 10.00 PM(IST)

NCP leader Praful Patel Photograph:( DNA )

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The Rajya Sabha MP was grilled by the agency over two separate sessions on Monday and Tuesday and his statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Former civil aviation minister and NCP leader Praful Patel has been summoned for questioning by the ED again next week as he sought exemption from the session Wednesday in connection with a money-laundering probe related to losses suffered by Air India as part of an alleged multi-crore aviation scam, officials said.

The Rajya Sabha MP was grilled by the agency over two separate sessions on Monday and Tuesday and his statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

He has been summoned again next week for June 17, the officials said.

They said Patel, 62, was asked about the policy decisions taken by the civil aviation ministry during his tenure and his links with alleged aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar, under arrest in this case, during the two rounds of grilling.

The case emerges from a criminal complaint registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe alleged irregularities in fixing air slots for international airlines that purportedly led to losses for national carrier Air India. A case for the purchase of 111 aircraft for the national carrier during Patel's tenure is also under probe.

The former Lok Sabha MP from the Bhandara-Gondia seat in Maharashtra 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.

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.

The ED has already questioned a number of people in the senior management of the state-owned airline and the aviation ministry.

The agency had said in the charge sheet "the investigation so far from the accused and others reveal that Patel is a dear friend of Deepak Talwar". 

Patel had earlier told the media that "he will be happy to cooperate with the ED for their understanding of the complexities of the aviation sector".

The ED charge sheet in the case named Talwar and claimed 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.

According to the charge sheet, Talwar obtained undue favours for private airlines using his contacts.

The agency has also alleged that Talwar was engaged in lobbying with politicians, ministers, public servants and officials in the civil aviation ministry for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways in order to secure undue benefits for these airlines.

"He (Talwar) illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-2009 at the cost of 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 2008-2009.

"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 has said in the charge sheet.

Talwar was arrested by the ED early this year after he was deported from Dubai.