The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has provisionally attached Hotel Holiday Inn, located in Aerocity near New Delhi’s IGI Airport, in connection with a money-laundering probe against corporate consultant Deepak Talwar.
The agency has alleged that Talwar had received over Rs 272 crore as kickbacks for pushing several deals in the aviation sector in India. This money, the ED has claimed, was layered through various shell companies floated by Talwar and used to buy the Aerocity hotel which is valued at over Rs 120 crore.
Talwar, who was recently deported from UAE, is under probe by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for being the key middleman in the purchase of 111 aircraft by the Indian Airlines from Airbus and Boeing during the UPA regime. The CBI and ED have filed four different FIRs in connection with these purchases, the merger of Air India with Indian Airlines ceding of profitable routes and timings in favour of foreign airlines that led to massive losses to the government flier.
The ED, which is probing the case based on a 2017 FIR by the CBI, has named officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, NACIL, Air and India and unknown private persons as accused. “It has been revealed that the accused, Deepak Talwar, illegally engaged in liasoning/lobbying with politicians, ministers, other public servants and officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation for airlines such as Emirates, Air Arabia and QatarAirways for securing undue benefits for them. He illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-09 at the cost of the national carrier, Air India,” a statement by the agency said.
A probe by the agency has revealed that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights, these airlines had made payments to the tune of Rs 272 crores to Talwar during 2008-09.
On February 13, The Indian Express had reported that three years after Indian Airlines had signed a deal to purchase 43 aircraft from Airbus, the French aircraft manufacturer had incorporated a company in partnership with Deepak Talwar and transferred USD 10.5 million in its accounts. The company, which is based out of Singapore, has Talwar’s son Aditya as one of the directors.
The payments were made in two tranches of USD 4.5 million and USD 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 was signed.
The ED has claimed that Talwar had created a web of entities owned by him and his family members in India and international offshore havens, to launder the Rs 272 crores received from foreign airlines.
“A part of these payments were made to a bank account in Bank of Singapore, belonging to a company M/s Asiafield Limited registered in the British Virgin Islands and beneficially owned by Deepak Talwar. These proceeds of crime were layered through a series of international money transfers, to finally integrate in India in M/s Wave Hospitality Private Limited, a company beneficially owned and controlled by Deepak Talwar and his family members in the name of his son, Aditya Talwar. These proceeds of crime were then utilized in the construction of Hotel Holiday Inn in Aerocity, New Delhi,” the ED statement said.
Talwar had fled the country in 2017 to avoid investigation. However, he was deported by the immigration authority of Dubai on January 31 this year and was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act by the ED. At present, he is in judicial custody.
Talwar’s lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Mir had earlier denied any wrongdoing on the part of his client and said Talwar had nothing to do with any of the companies that the ED spoke about. “The ED is indulging in kite flying. I deny any kind of payment made to Mr Talwar directly or indirectly. Without any confirmation from Airbus obtained through the issuance of a letter rogatory, it is sinful to accuse my client and defame him in public domain. Mr Aditya Talwar has no concern with Airbus or any of these deals. He is not a beneficiary.”
Regarding the case, Airbus had earlier told The Indian Express: “We do not comment on any ongoing investigation. We have cooperated with the Indian authorities in the past and will continue to do so.”