THE Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Aviation Minister Praful Patel next week as part of its money laundering probe related to alleged losses suffered by national carrier Air India in a multi-crore aviation scam during the UPA-era, officials said on Saturday.
They said that Patel, a Rajya Sabha member, has been asked to appear before the investigating officer of the case at 11 am on June 6 here. This is the first major action against a political leader in the alleged multi-crore aviation scam that is stated to have taken place during the UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh. Officials sources said that Patel, a senior politician belonging to Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), needs to be put through certain revelations made by arrested aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar and certain evidence unearthed by the agency in pursuit of this case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Patel, also the All India Football Federation President, has been asked to bring along certain documents related to his personal and official finances on the day of deposition, they said. Meanwhile, the NCP leader said that in Mumbai that he will be happy to cooperate with the ED so that the agency understands the ‘complexities’ of the aviation sector. “I will be happy to cooperate with ED for their understanding of the complexities of the aviation sector,” he told PTI over phone. Patel, 62, has represented the Bandra-Gondia seat of Maharashtra in Parliament four times and was Union Civil Aviation Minister in 2004. He was also appointed Cabinet Minister for heavy industries in 2011.
The agency had recently filed a chargesheet in the case naming Deepak Talwar. It has said that Talwar was in regular touch with Patel. The ED claimed in the chargesheet that Talwar, who has been arrested, allegedly finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia. “There is evidence including e-mail conversations between Deepak and Patel,” the probe agency told the court. According to the charge sheet, the investigation revealed that Talwar obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts.
The ED charged that Talwar had been engaged in liasioning/lobbying with politicians, Ministers, other public servants and officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar for securing undue benefits for them. “He (Talwar) illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-09 at the cost of the national carrier, Air India,” the ED claimed. It was also revealed that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights, these airlines made payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore to Talwar during 2008-09.