Air India route sharing deal: Praful Patel seeks alternative date from ED for questioning

Case relates to purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft and sharing of Air India’s profitable routes with international airlines

Former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has sought an alternative date from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning on deals for purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft and sharing of Air India’s profitable routes with international airlines.

The ED had summoned Mr. Patel for recording his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on Thursday. However, citing prior commitments, he expressed his inability to appear before the probe team.

The agency has already questioned several Air India officials. Statements of the then Civil Aviation Secretary and officials involved in processing and finalising the agreements have also been recorded.

Based on the findings, the ED plans to pose questions to Mr. Patel. It may also seek clarifications on certain commitments that were initially made but not included in the purchase agreement for 43 aircraft.

One such condition was for building training facilities, said an official.

The 2011 Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) report mentions that the EGoM (Empowered Group of Ministers) minutes for the aircraft acquisition from Airbus reflected a commitment that a training centre would be established by Airbus in India at an approximate investment of $75 million.

“Even though Airbus was not the leading company, it would assist the creation of MRO [Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul] facilities in India in association with promoters. The estimated investment was of the order of $100 million,” the report said, quoting government documents.

Unlike the other clauses in the agreement, there was no mention of a time-frame by which such facilities would be created, it added.

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