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Enforcement Directorate to summon UPA ministers for investigation in Rs 8,000 crore Indian Airlines deal

The purchase of 111 aircraft by Indian Airlines and Air India, and merger of both the airlines are also under the scanner

More troubles are mounting on the Congress party as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is expected to shortly summon UPA ministers for an investigation in connection with an alleged scam involving a purchase contract of Airbus aircraft for Air India (then Indian Airlines), reported News 18.

According to the reports, few senior ministers of the UPA government are under ED’s scanner over the purchase of 43 aircraft by Air India from the French aerospace giant Airbus. The ED during its investigation has found that there were some irregularities in the deal signed between the UPA government and the Airbus.

It is reported that Airbus did not deliver on some of its contract obligations. Along with delivery 43 aircraft to Air India, Airbus was supposed to set up Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) and training centre as mandated by the contract. But the aircraft manufacturer did not set up MRO centre getting an undue benefit of $175 million.

The proposal to open an MRO centre was cleared by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) of the UPA era by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and HR Bharadwaj. Even though the EGoM had cleared the proposal of the mandatory clause of setting up of MRO centre by the Airbus, it was missing in the final deal.

Recently, the ED had also summoned Airbus executive Vice-President Kiran Rao and six others accused of money laundering in a 13-year-old Rs 8,000-crore deal. However, Kiran Rao resigned from the Airbus after he received the notice to appear before the ED.

In 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had initially started investigating the deal as it found that certain clauses relating to the setting up of an MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) unit, training centre and a warehouse by Airbus were allegedly diluted by some officials to favour the Airbus.

The deal was finalised in September 2005 after the EGoM of the UPA-I government had given the nod to buy 43 A320 family aircraft to Indian Airlines, which merged with Air India in 2007, provided it sets up an MRO facility in the country.

In May 2018, the ED had also initiated a probe relating to the alleged corruption that took place in the UPA era involving procurement of 111 aircraft amounting to Rs. 70,000 crore and lease of planes, surrender of profit-making routes and flight schedules by Air India. The purchase of 111 aircraft included 43 Airbus planes by Indian Airlines and 68 Boeing planes by Air India.

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