New Delhi: Former civil aviation minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel was on Monday questioned for nearly 8 hours by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with multi-crore airline seat-sharing scam. He has been called again on June 11 to complete his statement.

Patel appeared before the agency at around 10.30 AM, stated ANI. His statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED had registered a criminal complaint against the NCP leader for his alleged irregularities in fixing air slots for international airlines that purportedly led to losses for Air India, the national aviation carrier.

The Rajya Sabha lawmaker was in-charge of the civil aviation ministry between 2004 and 2011. Notably, Praful Patel was a “dear friend” of corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar. The ED chargesheet filed in a Delhi court stated that Talwar allegedly used his proximity with ministers and others to get the work done for his clients. The agency further alleged that Talwar finalised various communications addressed to Patel on behalf of Emirates and Air Arabia. He also obtained undue favours for the private airlines using his contacts, according to the chargesheet.

The agency also claimed that Talwar was engaged in lobbying with politicians, ministers, public servants and officials in the civil aviation ministry for Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways in order to secure undue benefits to these airlines. The ED said, “He (Talwar) illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-09 at the cost of the national carrier Air India.”

It has also been alleged that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights, these airlines made payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore to Talwar during 2008-09. “He created a web of his own entities and used the companies of his son, Aditya Talwar, in India and international offshore havens to launder Rs 272 crore received from foreign airlines.”

“Part of these payments were made to a bank account in the Bank of Singapore, belonging to a company called Asiafield Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands and beneficially owned by Deepak Talwar,” the agency has said in the charge sheet. Talwar was arrested by the ED early this year after he was deported from Dubai.

(With agency inputs)