FORMER CIVIL Aviation Minister Praful Patel appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the first time Monday in connection with a money laundering probe in the Air India case, including the purchase of 111 aircraft, during his tenure in the earlier UPA government.
Sources said Patel arrived around 11 am at the ED office in Delhi where his questioning continued till evening. The NCP leader would be called again for questioning, they said.
According to sources, the ED is probing various decisions taken by Patel at the time, including on the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines. The probe covers allegations linked to the ceding of profitable routes to foreign airlines, corruption in the opening of training institutes with foreign investment, and Patel’s alleged ties with lobbyist Deepak Talwar who, the ED has claimed, was the middleman in these deals.
Patel had earlier denied any wrongdoing, saying all decisions were collective. Talwar was deported to India from Dubai in January.
The ED probe follows four FIRs filed by CBI in this connection.
Patel was initially called to appear before the ED last Thursday but could not make it due to “prior commitments”. The ED named Patel in a chargesheet filed on May 1 in which it alleged that he “is a dear friend” of Talwar who allegedly facilitated dispersal of profit-making Air India routes to private airlines during 2008-09 using his “proximity to the minister and aviation personnel in India”.
It also claimed that Talwar had exchanged several emails with Patel’s office during the period when the alleged irregularities were committed. Talwar’s lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Mir had denied any wrongdoing.