Predicaments of Congress stalwart P Chidambaram are not going to end any time soon. Barely a month after being released from Tihar jail, the former union minister was on Friday questioned by the ED for almost six hours in connection with its money-laundering investigation in an alleged scam in aircraft purchase during the UPA tenure.
Enforcement Directorate (ED) sources: Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram is being questioned by ED, in connection with the alleged deal and purchase case of Airbus and Boeing plane for Air India pic.twitter.com/Q8cR0bEYZc
— ANI (@ANI) January 3, 2020
Chidambaram’s statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), an ED official known to the case said.
The case is related to the losses endured by Air India due to purported multi-crore scam in purchase of Boeing and Airbus planes for the state airline, and wrongdoing in fixing air slots for international airlines during the UPA regime. According to sources, file for approval of Airbus planes went through P Chidambaram, and it became necessary for the investigators to question him in connection with the deal.
A panel of ministers headed by P Chidambaram had approved the purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft for Air India. Initially, there was a condition that the manufacturer has to build training facilities and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) centres in India. But later this stipulation was removed when the final purchase order was issued. Due to this, Airbus got an undue benefit of $175 million, the amount it was supposed to invest in India.
The law enforcement had in August last year also summoned the scam accused former Congress minister in relations to the case. Prior to this, former aviation minister Praful Patel was also questioned by the ED in the same case.
It was earlier reported in February that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had found dubious deposits alleged to be the kickbacks paid by the international airlines into several accounts of extradited Congress era lobbyist Deepak Talwar. The ED had discovered Rs 270 crores deposited in Bank of Singapore by international airlines and another Rs 88 crore received in his NGO to influence some top ministers and bureaucrats in the previous UPA regime, reported Times of India.
According to reports, France based Airbus SAS and UK-based MBDA had paid around ₹90.72 crores to Advantage India for education and healthcare-related activities. Advantage India is an NGO owned by Deepak Talwar. In 2010, Advantage received ₹45 crores from Airbus, while in 2012-13 the NGO was paid ₹20.9 crores by Airbus and ₹13.7 crores by MBDA, in violation of FCRA rules.
When the accounts of the NGO were investigated by the Income Tax department, it was revealed the amount was not used in any healthcare or education activities. Instead, the fund was diverted to accounts belonging to Deepak Talwar and his family members. Investigations were initiated into the matter in the US too.
P Chidambaram is also being investigated by ED in two other cases of Aircel-Maxis and INX Media. On December 4, the Supreme court had granted bail to the scam accused Congress bigwig in the INX Media case. The bail had come after over 106 days in custody.