ED questions Praful Patel in alleged aviation scam during UPA tenure

Maitri Porecha | | Updated on: Jun 10, 2019

Praful Patel, former Civil Aviation Minister | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

Talwar had made windfall gains of nearly ₹272 crore by securing favourable traffic rights,

Former Aviation Minister Praful Patel was questioned throughout Monday by officials of the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged losses suffered by Air India, while Patel was in office. The questioning, which started at around 10.30 am, went on till late into the evening.

“After the arrest of kingpin Deepak Talwar, the ED conducted multiple raids at his workplaces and seized substantial hardware. Certain e-mails, seized from the hard disks, exchanged between Talwar and his various offshore offices have a mention of a certain ‘Minister Patel’,” claimed an ED official.

The official further said that e-mails have quoted Patel’s name quite extensively and that he will be questioned about his alleged involvement. “Certain profitable air routes to the Middle East were allotted to Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways. And while the point man was Deepak Talwar who closed these deals, the timings of allotment were during the time of Patel being the Aviation Minister,” the official said.

Even as pinning Patel down with hard evidence linking criminality on him will be tough, Patel was questioned about his name popping up time and again in Talwar’s e-mails. “It will be difficult to indict Patel until we find a direct role of his involvement. He has merely been called in for questioning,” said the official.

Talwar had made windfall gains of nearly ₹272 crore by securing favourable traffic rights, which is said to have caused considerable losses to Air India during 2008-09 as the latter lost passenger traffic, when Patel was the Aviation Minister in UPA-I regime.

Patel was also questioned about the procurement of 43 passenger planes by Air India from Airbus, which allegedly led to a fraudulent benefit of ₹1,000 crore to Airbus.

After failing to appear before the ED after the first summons, Patel asked for an extension and appeared for questioning on Monday after the second summons was issued.

Published on June 10, 2019
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