The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned senior NCP leader and former aviation minister Praful Patel next week as part of its money laundering probe related to alleged losses suffered by national carrier Air India in a multi-crore aviation scam during the UPA-era, officials said Saturday.
They said Patel, a Member of Rajya Sabha, has been asked to appear before the investigating officer of the case on June 6 in New Delhi. This is the first major action against a political leader in the alleged multi-crore aviation scam that is stated to have taken place during the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh.
Officials sources said Patel needs to be put through certain revelations made by arrested aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar and certain evidence unearthed by the agency in pursuit of this case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The agency had recently filed a charge sheet in the case naming Deepak Talwar. It has said that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel.
"I will be happy to cooperate with the Enforcement Directorate to help them understand the complexities of aviation sector," news agency ANI quoted Patel as saying.
Meanwhile, the NCP leader said in Mumbai that he will be happy to cooperate with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) so that the agency understands the "complexities" of the aviation industry.
The agency had recently filed a charge sheet in the case naming Deepak Talwar. It has said that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel. The ED claimed in the charge sheet that Talwar, who has been arrested, allegedly finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia.
"There is evidence including e-mail conversations between Deepak and Patel," the probe agency told the court. According to the charge-sheet, the investigation revealed that Talwar obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts.
The 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 A R 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.
Deepak 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 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.
(With PTI inputs)