Foreign airlines paid 270 crore to Talwar
ED Probe Focuses On ‘Links’ With UPA Mantris, Babus
New Delhi: Intense questioning of recently extradited lobbyist Deepak Talwar by the Enforcement Directorate in relation to alleged payoffs of more than Rs 270 crore deposited in Bank of Singapore by international airlines, besides Rs 88 crore received in his NGO, has put the focus on links between some top ministers and bureaucrats in the previous UPA regime and Talwar.
The corporate lobbyist, known for his access in civil aviation circles, is being questioned by ED to further establish the money trail where it is suspected that Rs 90 crore was withdrawn from bank accounts of Talwar-controlled entities and distributed to politicians and officials who could have had a role in tweaking of rules to benefit certain foreign aircraft manufacturers and airlines.
Talwar was deported from Dubai on January 31 and brought back on a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) aircraft and has been since remanded to ED custody till February 12 by a Delhi court in a money laundering case registered against him in 2017 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
As per sources, the ED has received details of at least $55 million deposited between 2008 and 2012 in Bank of Singapore in accounts of companies allegedly “owned and controlled” by Talwar. Four major international airlines and aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which had allegedly transferred millions of dollars, have been named by the agency in the remand note moved while seeking custody of Talwar. The airlines are Emirates, Air Asia, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways.
The ED’s investigation over the last two years found that Talwar had received alleged kickbacks of over Rs 270 crore from foreign airlines and aircraft manufacturer Airbus for illegally benefiting them by using his contacts with the then civil aviation ministry in withdrawing Air India’s services from some lucrative and profit earning routes.
Details with the agency showed that the first of such payments were received by a Talwar entity from Emirates in Bank of Singapore on June 3, 2008, for $23 million. Two months later, the same airline transferred another $11million in Bank of Singapore in the accounts of a “company owned and controlled by Talwar”.
Around the same time, Air Arabia deposited $5.8 million in Bank of Singapore, followed by payments from Qatar Airways on February 27, 2009, for over $9.6 million and another $1.5 million from Air Asia on June 1, 2009.
Airbus made two transfers totalling $10.5 million in companies controlled by Talwar between August and September 2012, around the time the civil aviation ministry placed orders for purchase of aircraft.
“These accounts in Bank of Singapore in which payments have been received from foreign airlines don’t belong to my client. He has neither incorporated these companies nor is he the beneficiary of these accounts. The NGO Advantage India was incorporated by Deepak Talwar sometime in 1990s and the funds (Rs 88 crore) received from Airbus was part of corporate social responsibility,” Talwar’s lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Mir told TOI. “Qatar Airways will not comment on this,” a spokesperson for the airline said. Emirates, Air Asia, Air Arabia and Airbus did not respond to TOIqueries.
Talwar came under the scanner of investigating agencies soon after change of government in 2014. He fled the country after the income tax department searched his premises in 2016, followed by CBI registering three FIRs on January 5, 2017, probing the role of then civil aviation minister in the “illegality” in purchase of 111 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus despite the fact that the state carrier had expressed requirement for only 67 such aircraft.
The ED, which initiated a money laundering probe against the accused in June 2017, has already tracked alleged kickbacks trail of Rs 370 crore.