FORMER CIVIL Aviation Minister and NCP leader Praful Patel appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the second time on Tuesday in connection with a money laundering probe into the Air India case, including the purchase of 111 aircraft, during his tenure in the previous UPA government.
Sources said Patel arrived around 10 am at the ED office in Delhi and was questioned for more than nine hours. Sources said he cooperated with the investigators. He would be called again for questioning, they said.
According to the sources, the ED is probing decisions taken by Patel at the time, including 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 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. The ED claimed in court that in exchange for securing favourable traffic rights for three foreign airlines, Talwar received payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore during 2008-09