Aviation scam CBI quizzes former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel

first_imgNew Delhi: The CBI on Thursday questioned former Civil Aviation Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel for over six hours, in connection with a UPA-era aviation scam the agency is investigating.Patel arrived at the Central Bureau of Investigation headquarters here at around 10:30 am and was deposed by probe officials with regards to several profitable air routes that were awarded to foreign and domestic private airlines, thus causing large losses to the national carrier. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The probe agency had just days ago taken custody of aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar to interrogate him about the same case. In a dramatic turn of events, CBI officials had presented an arrest memo immediately after a court here had dismissed his plea for an anticipatory bail in the case. The central probe agency’s action against Talwar came after more than two years of registering the FIR in the matter. Taking cognizance of the CBI FIR, the Enforcement Directorate had initiated a money-laundering probe in the matter and has since arrested Talwar, questioned Patel and also filed a chargehseet alleging close association between the two. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThe CBI’s action against Talwar came after the ED’s chargesheet against Talwar had outlined the nature of his relationship with the then Civil Aviation Minister as being a close one and even alleged that the two were “dear friends”. The financial probe agency’s probe under PMLA revealed that foreign private airlines such as Emirates, Air Arabia, and Qatar Airways had allegedly paid R 272 crore to Talwar in exchange for securing profitable air routes and timings on their behalf. The ED’s probe had revealed that part of these payments were made to Bank of Singapore account of one Asiafield Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, beneficially owned by Talwar. The proceeds were then transferred to Wave Hospitality Pvt Ltd in India, a company beneficially owned and controlled by Talwar in his son Aditya Talwar’s name. In fact, the case on the basis of which the ED had initiated its probe pertains to a PIL filed in the Apex court in 2012, which alleged large-scale corruption in the Civil Aviation Ministry during the UPA regime. The Supreme Court had then directed the central agency to register cases to probe these allegations, after which three FIRs and one Preliminary Enquiry were registered by the CBI. The case in which Patel was questioned by the CBI on Thursday, alleges that “foreign airlines were given unrestricted entry into India and major routes were given to them without taking any reciprocal benefits for Air India”. The CBI goes on to allege that despite warnings of huge losses to the national carrier, Civil Aviation Ministry officials had dishonestly given pecuniary benefits to private, domestic and foreign airlines. Specifically, the CBI alleged that up to four international air routes and nine domestic air routes were awarded to private airlines such as Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Go Air, Indigo, Spicejet, Paramount Airways, and others, while Air India withdrew its services from these routes.last_img