AI merger probe: Lobbyist Deepak Talwar arrestedhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/ai-merger-probe-lobbyist-deepak-talwar-arrested-5855472/

AI merger probe: Lobbyist Deepak Talwar arrested

Talwar, who has been in jail after Enforcement Directorate arrested him following his deportation from UAE in January this year, was remanded to CBI custody for seven days by a court.

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Deepak Talwar is one of the main accused who allegedly facilitated dispersal of profit-making routes of Air India to private airlines using his connection with the then Civil Aviation Minister and has been in judicial custody for money laundering. (File)

The CBI on Friday arrested corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar in connection with a case related to the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India and the purchase of aircraft.

Talwar, who has been in jail after Enforcement Directorate arrested him following his deportation from UAE in January this year, was remanded to CBI custody for seven days by a court.

The CBI is investigating Talwar in connection four FIRs it registered last year over alleged irregularities in the merger of Air India with Indian Airlines and the purchase of 111 aircraft by the government carrier from Airbus and Boeing. It is also investigating alleged ceding of profitable routes to foreign airlines and alleged corruption in opening several training institutes with foreign investment.

Probe agencies have alleged that Talwar played the role of the middleman in these deals, which were all struck during the UPA regime when Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel was the Union Minister of Civil Aviation. Patel has earlier denied any wrongdoing, saying all decisions were collective.

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In its prosecution complaint filed on May 1, the ED told a Delhi court that “Mr Praful Patel is a dear friend” of Talwar, who allegedly facilitated dispersal of profit-making Air India routes to private airlines in 2008-09 using his “proximity to the minister and aviation personnel in India”.

The ED told the court that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights for three foreign airlines, Talwar received payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore in 2008-09.

Detailing its investigation after Talwar was deported to India from Dubai on January 31, the ED said in its report to the court: “The investigation has established that Deepak Talwar has obtained various facilities in the aviation sector, increased seat entitlements/points of call for air traffic rights, consultancy service for operation of airlines etc, for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways.”

On February 13, The Indian Express reported that three years after Indian Airlines signed a deal to purchase 43 aircraft from Airbus, the French aircraft manufacturer incorporated a company in partnership with Deepak Talwar and transferred $10.5 million in its accounts. The company, based out of Singapore, lists Talwar’s son Aditya as one of its directors.

The payments were made in two tranches of $4.5 million and $6 million to Auctus Capital PTE Ltd in 2012, three years after the company was incorporated and almost six years after the deal between Indian Airlines and Airbus had been signed.

ED has claimed that its probe revealed that Talwar created a web of entities owned by him and his family members in India and international offshore havens, to launder money.