CBI Files Closure Report In Case Against Praful Patel   - Vibes Of India

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CBI Files Closure Report In Case Against Praful Patel  

| Updated: March 29, 2024 14:48

Patel, as Union civil aviation minister during the airline merger, was one of the key suspects in the case

In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a closure report in the Air India-Indian Airlines merger case. This has happened eight months after NCP leader Praful Patel, one of the key suspects in the case, joined the NDA. 

The CBI closure report was filed by the agency on March 19 in the court of special judge (CBI), Rouse Avenue Court, Prashant Kumar. The court will consider the CBI submission on April 15.

Mr Patel, in his capacity as Union civil aviation minister during the merger, was among the key suspects in the case and had been questioned by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED).

In May 2019, ED had told a special court that “Mr Praful Patel is a dear friend” of middleman Deepak Talwar who allegedly facilitated dispersal of profit-making Air India routes to private airlines during 2008-09 using his “proximity to the minister and aviation personnel in India”.

Clean chit soon?

Last July, Mr Patel walked out of Sharad Pawar-led NCP with Ajit Pawar and six other leaders of the party and joined the NDA. The Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP is now part of the Eknath Shinde  government in Maharashtra.  

To probe these issues, the CBI had registered four FIRs in May 2017. The closure report has been filed with respect to the first FIR. The probe in other cases continues.

The case pertains to AI-IA merger to form National Aviation Corporation of India Ltd (NACIL). At least 15 expensive aircraft, for which NACIL did not even have pilots, were leased “with a view to dishonestly favour private parties”, the FIR said.

In the first FIR, which lies at the heart of the case, the CBI mentioned “unknown officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation” in the accused column and mentioned Patel’s name in the FIR.

The action of leasing the aircraft was taken “dishonestly without due considerations regarding proper route study and marketing or price strategy”. Also, the aircraft were leased even while the aircraft acquisition programme was going on, in conspiracy with other unknown persons on extraneous considerations and resulted in pecuniary benefit to private companies and consequent loss to government exchequer, the first FIR said.

Patel has denied the allegations saying that all decisions in the matter were “collective”.

Incidentally, Patel is also under investigation by the ED in a money laundering case against underworld figure Iqbal Mirchi. The former union minister was questioned by the agency in 2019 and 2021. 

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