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A dear friend of lobbyist Deepak Talwar: ED on Praful Patel

By Anuj Cariappa

Mumbai, June 11: Former civil aviation minister Praful Patel was a "dear friend" of corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who used his close proximity with ministers and others to get the work done for his clients, as per the charge sheet filed in a Delhi court by the ED, which quizzed the NCP leader.

Patel was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering probe related to the losses suffered by national carrier Air India as part of an alleged multi-crore aviation scam. The quizzing came over a month after the ED had filed its final report in connection with an alleged multi-crore aviation scam related to the negotiations to favour foreign private airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, causing losses to Air India.

File photo of Praful Patel

ED claimed in the charge sheet filed on May 1 against Talwar, who has been arrested by the agency and currently is in judicial custody, that he allegedly finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia.

According to the final report, Talwar obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts.

"Soft data and other documents seized/retrieved during various searches conducted in the instant investigation pointed towards his (Talwar's) close proximity to senior functionaries in administration, politicians, ministers and other officials.

"Deepak Talwar used his proximity to get the work done for his clients," the agency's Special Public Prosecutor Nitesh Rana told the court.

The court took cognizance of the charge sheet, which also submitted that "the investigation so far from the accused and others reveal that Praful Patel is a dear friend of Deepak Talwar... Talwar used to finalise the communication to be sent to Patel on behalf of entities such as Emirates, Dubai Aerospace Enterprises etc."

Praful Patel appears before ED in money laundering case

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, who was in-charge of the civil aviation ministry between 2004 and 2011, has not been arrayed as an accused in the case.

ED had told the court earlier that it was trying to find out the names of officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, National Aviation Company of India Ltd and Air India, who favoured foreign airlines by making national carrier, by giving up profit making routes and profit making timings.

"It has been alleged that officials of ministry of civil aviation, NACIL, Air India, by abusing their official positions as public servants and receiving illegal gratification, in conspiracy with other public servants, private domestic and foreign airlines, made the national carrier gave up profit making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international domestic and foreign private airlines.

"This resulted in a huge loss of market share to the national carrier and also led to pecuniary benefits to private domestic and foreign airlines," ED had told the court.

India held bilateral meetings with Dubai, Sharjah and Qatar after which there has been an increase in the seat entitlements for both the contracting countries and increase in points of call for foreign carriers, it said.

Talwar has been charged with criminal conspiracy, forgery and under various other sections of the FCRA for allegedly diverting Rs 90.72 crore worth of foreign funds meant for ambulances and other articles received by his NGO from Europe's leading missile manufacturing company.

His role in some aviation deals during the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) regime at the Centre is under scanner as well.

Deepak was booked by ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in criminal cases of corruption, while the income tax department charged him with tax evasion.

Talwar was arrested by ED early this year after he was deported from Dubai.

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