ED probes Air India deals during UPA rule

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials have admitted that they had registered four cases of alleged money laundering with regard to merger of Air India and Indian Airlines and the acquisition of 111 aircraft. ED courses confirmed that the cases were based on four CBI FIRs lodged last year and have been registered under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

NCP leader Praful Patel was the Civil Aviation Minister when the merger took place during the UPA-I rule. In his media interactions earlier, Patel had denied any wrongdoing and said all decisions had been collective.

“While probing a case of money laundering against corporate consultant Deepak Talwar, we stumbled upon some money trail that is linked to the entire matter of Air India. We have traced a payment linked to the Air India case to an entity linked to Deepak Talwar. The money involved is huge,” a senior ED official said.

Talwar is facing an ED probe in connection with alleged misuse of funds brought into his NGO Advantage India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The four ED cases are related to the Air India-Indian Airlines merger, purchase of 111 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus at Rs 70,000 crore, alleged deliberate ceding of profitable routes and schedules to private airlines, and opening of certain training institutes with foreign investment.

It may be recalled taht in a report tabled in Parliament in January 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had flagged these irregularities and called the decision to acquire 111 planes by Air India “a recipe for disaster”, which should have raised alarm in the government. It said that the aircraft acquisition through debt had “contributed predominantly” to the airline’s massive debt liability. The CAG had also called the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines “ill-timed” and pointed out that “the financial case for the merger was not adequately validated prior to the merger”.

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