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ED widens probe on lobbyist Talwar, grills him on AI seat sharing deal

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IANS New Delhi
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has widened its probe in connection with the money laundering case against corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who was extradited to India from the UAE on Thursday for his suspected role in the irregular seat-sharing on Air India's profitable routes.
An ED source said the agency would also probe the Rs 200 crore allegedly received in one of the bank accounts of a company of Talwar in Singapore.
Talwar was extradited to India from the UAE in a special plane early on Thursday morning along with the co-accused in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland case Rajiv Saxena. A Delhi court sent Talwar to seven-day ED custody here.
An ED source said Talwar was being probed for his suspected role in the irregular seat sharing on Air India's profitable routes with some international airlines.
The ED probe is based on four FIRs 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 based on the CBI FIR filed in May 2017 on the directions of the Supreme Court.
In May 2018, the ED had searched nine places in Delhi and Haryana to gather documents and evidence against Talwar.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel was the Civil Aviation Minister when the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines took place during the United Prgressive Alliance-I (UPA) rule. Patel had denied any wrongdoing in the case earlier.
Talwar is not named as an accused in the Air India deal case registered by the CBI.
However, the CBI and ED had earlier registered an FIR against Talwar and an NGO, Advantage India, for alleged violation of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) involving more than Rs 90 crore.
The ED source said that the during investigation it was found that a company associated with Talwar allegedly received about Rs 200 crore in a Singapore bank account.
He said the transaction may be linked to "bilateral agreements" for seat sharing on Air India's profitable routes, which later went in favour of some international players.
He said the seat sharing agreement caused "huge losses" to the loss making Air India.
According to an Income Tax department report, the bank statements of Talwar's companies showed that $9.6 million was paid by Qatar Airways, $9.8 million by Air Arabia and $10.01 million by an individual.
An ED official said that the interrogation of Talwar started soon after he was brought to its office here on Thursday morning.
Talwar had fled to Dubai after the Indian agencies started probing his role for concealing income of more than Rs 1,000 crore as well as facilitating aviation contracts during the UPA regime.
He is accused of brokering aviation sector deals, getting government approval for foreign companies, securing favours for clients and having ties with UPA functionaries.
The extradition comes as a major boost to the Indian agencies investigating corruption angles in two separate cases involving the two.
--IANS
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First Published: Jan 31 2019 | 7:12 PM IST

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