New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED) here on Monday questioned for over eight hours former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel in connection with a money laundering probe into the losses suffered by Air India under the alleged multi-crore aviation scam.
This was Patel’s first appearance before the agency in connection with the case. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader has been called again for questioning on Tuesday. On June 6, he had skipped the ED questioning citing prior commitments and asked for a new date.
The case follows a criminal complaint registered by the ED over alleged irregularities in fixing air slots for international airlines that purportedly led to losses for Air India. However, he has denied any wrongdoing.
The ED has already questioned several Air India officials and also recorded statements of then Civil Aviation Secretary and others involved in processing and finalising the agreements.
Patel was the Civil Aviation Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government between 2004 and 2011, when the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines took place.
According to senior ED officials, the agency asked Patel about the Air India and the ministry officials who favoured foreign airlines by giving up profit-making routes and profit-making timings.
Patel’s questioning has come almost after a month when the ED filed its final report in the alleged aviation scam.
In its May 1 charge-sheet, the ED named corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar and alleged that he finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia.
Talwar, currently in judicial custody, was extradited to India from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January this year.
The ED probe encompasses Air India-Indian Airlines merger; purchase of 111 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus at Rs 70,000 crore; ceding of profitable routes and schedules to private airlines; and opening of training institutes with foreign investment.
It is also investigating how the money received in Talwar’s accounts were transferred to government employees, including those in the Civil Aviation Ministry.