Former Civil Aviation Minister and Senior NCP leader Praful Patel appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the second consecutive day for questioning in connection with the Deepak Talwar case. Patel, who reached the ED headquarters a little before 10 am is expected to have been quizzed over his alleged association with aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar. Sources have told India Today that the ED is in possession of 'circumstantial evidence' implicating Patel and that it is likely that he was confronted with the documentary evidence which the agency has gathered during its investigation.
Patel was grilled for over 8 hours by the ED on Monday in connection with a probe into irregular seat-sharing on Air India's profitable routes.
This is the first time that Praful Patel has appeared before the financial probe agency in connection with the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He was summoned by the ED to appear for questioning over his alleged involvement in awarding favourable air traffic rights to foreign airlines, causing losses to Air India.
Earlier, the had ED said that Deepak Talwar, who is currently in judicial custody, allegedly acted as a middleman to favour foreign private airlines, causing huge loss to the national carrier.
Patel's name came up in the alleged scam in a chargesheet filed by the ED against Deepak Talwar on March 30. Patel was the Civil Aviation Minister between 2004 and 2011
The ED has alleged that Deepak Talwar was in constant touch with Praful Patel while acting as a middleman in negotiations with foreign private airlines.
The agency claimed that they are in possession of Praful Patel's emails that implicates him.
The ED has already questioned several Air India officials and also recorded the statements of the then Civil Aviation Secretary and others involved in the processing and finalising of the agreements.
Praful Patel, who was the Civil Aviation Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines took place, has denied any wrongdoing.
Talwar, currently in judicial custody, was extradited to India from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January.
The ED is probing the Air India-Indian Airlines merger, purchase of 111 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus at Rs 70,000 crore, ceding of profitable routes and schedules to private airlines, and opening of training institutes with foreign investment.
It is also investigating how the money received in Talwar's accounts was transferred to government employees, including those in the Civil Aviation Ministry.