National

Aircraft scam: ED probe in full swing

Investigation into money laundering

The Enforcement Directorate’s money laundering investigation into alleged irregularities in the procurement of 111 aircraft worth about ₹70,000 crore from Airbus (Europe) and Boeing (U.S.) for the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India is at an advanced stage, said an official on Thursday.

In terms of establishing criminality under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the agency will soon be in a position to arrive at conclusions pertaining to the purchase of aircraft from Airbus, on the basis of its findings, the official said.

The ED’s probe is based on an FIR registered against unknown officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India and unknown private persons by the CBI in May 2017, following a Supreme Court directive.

It was alleged that during 2004, the Civil Aviation Ministry decided to procure 111 aircraft when Air India did not have the capacity to purchase even a few aircraft. Air India, which was showing a profit of about ₹100 crore immediately went into huge losses, alleged the FIR, adding: “the decision benefited foreign aircraft manufacturers and caused loss to national carriers.”

The FIR alleged that initially Air India had planned to buy only 24 aircraft and Indian Airlines had to get 43 planes. “However, the public servants of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, by misusing their official position, actually guided Air India to change its fleet plan and within 24 weeks, it firmed up an aircraft plan for 68 aircraft,” it said.

Incidentally, the investigating agencies are probing another case of alleged misuse of foreign contributions by one Delhi-based NGO, linked to a lobbyist, with which Airbus SAS had an agreement to pay €9 million in three instalments as a corporate social responsibility initiative.

The NGO also had a similar agreement with MBDA-UK (missile manufacturing company) for receipt of €6 million. Between 2012 and 2015, it received more than ₹90 crore from the two foreign companies.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 3:25:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/aircraft-scam-ed-probe-in-full-swing/article25791713.ece

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