The Directorate of Enforcement is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India. Investigating foreign exchange violations, the ED on Friday launched a probe in 4 Air India deals signed during the UPA tenure under money laundering act. The ED has lodged multiple criminal cases to investigate allegations of financial irregularities and money laundering in 4 deals signed during the UPA rule, including the suspicious merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.
The ED equivalent of FIR, Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), are registered in at least 4 cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. These ED cases are based on the 4 CBI FIRs. Last year, in May 2017, CBI had filed 3 FIR and a preliminary inquiry to probe alleged irregularities in Indian Airlines-Air India merger and purchase of 111 aircraft, leasing of planes without due consideration of route or pricing strategy, giving up of profit-making routes by Air India to national and international private players causing huge loss to the state-run carrier and an alleged malpractice in the procurement of software for the airline.
The cases relate to decisions taken by the ministry during the tenure of the UPA causing an alleged loss of “tens of thousands of crore” of rupees to the exchequer as per the CBI. The CBI had registered cases against unidentified officials, Ministry of Civil Aviation and others for charges of corruption, cheating and criminal conspiracy.
The allegations related to the decision of buying 111 aeroplanes, for about Rs 70,000 crore, for Air India to benefit foreign manufacturers. According to the CBI, such a purchase caused an alleged financial loss to already stressed national carriers. The CAG in 2011 had already questioned the government’s reasoning behind the decision to procure aeroplanes for Rs 70,000 in 2006. The auditor said the deal should have caused raised alarm in different quarters of Aviation Ministry and the Planning Commission.
It is now anticipated that ED will issue summons to the concerned authorities involved and ask them to appear before it.
Showing no mercy, the ED has come down really hard against the money launderers. Last month, ED filed a money laundering case against Karnataka Congress leader D. K. Shivakumar. As ED tightens its noose in the money laundering cases pertaining to the gross irregularities in UPA rule, it will be interesting to see how the Congress malfeasants respond to the ECIRs. It appears that money laundering has become synonymous to the Congress.