A Delhi court on Friday allowed the ED to question lobbyist Deepak Talwar in Tihar jail in a fresh money laundering case related to the purchase of 43 aircraft by erstwhile Indian Airlines from France's Airbus Industrie in 2005.
Special Judge Santosh Snehi Mann allowed the Enforcement Directorate to interrogate Talwar, who is currently in judicial custody in a separate case related to negotiations to allegedly favour foreign private airlines causing losses to national carrier Air India.
In the present case, special public prosecutors D P Singh and Nitesh Rana told the court that Talwar's interrogation was required to unearth the entire criminal conspiracy related to alleged money laundering in relation to the purchase.
Rana told the court, "He (Talwar) received Rs 92 crore from Airbus Industrie in one account and Rs 142 crore in another. He was directly linked with Airbus in these transactions and he was doing his own negotiations."
The court was hearing a plea moved by the ED seeking its nod to arrest Talwar in the Airbus case.
However, the court directed the agency to question Talwar in Tihar jail instead.
"He is in judicial custody in another case. What’s stopping you (ED) from going there and questioning him. Is there any bar from going there and interrogating," the judge asked.
Following this, the ED requested the court to permit it to interrogate Talwar inside Tihar, which was allowed.
According to the ED, the case was filed against Indian Airlines officials and other unknown persons, "alleging that the officials, by abusing their official position as public servants in conspiracy with Airbus Industrie, caused undue pecuniary advantage to Airbus Industrie and caused corresponding undue loss to the government exchequer in carrying out the purchase of 43 aircraft by Indian Airlines from Airbus Industrie, France."
The cabinet committee on economic affairs/empowered group of ministers had approved the purchase of 43 Airbus Aircraft in 2006 and the purchase price per aircraft was fixed with the condition that Airbus will establish training and MRO Centre worth USD 175 million (around Rs 1000 crore).
"However, purchase order was placed for supply of 43 aircraft by fraudulently deleting the said condition. Deletion of those conditions for establishing MRO and training centre resulted in undue benefit of Rs 1,000 crore to Airbus which should have been reduced from agreed purchase price of aircraft fixed by the government of India," the ED said.
It told the court that the conduct of Talwar was non-cooperative towards the investigation and he would not appear before investigating authority in the present probe unless he is compelled by law to do so.
In the first case, the ED alleged that Talwar acted as a middleman in negotiations to favour foreign private airlines causing loss to national carrier Air India.
It told the court that it was trying to find out the names of officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, National Aviation Company of India Ltd and Air India, who favoured foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, by making national carrier give up profit making routes and profit making timings.
It has been alleged that officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation, NACIL, Air India, by abusing their official positions as public servants and receiving illegal gratification, in conspiracy with other public servants, private domestic and foreign airlines, made the national carrier give up profit making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international domestic and foreign private airlines.
"This resulted in a huge loss of market share to the national carrier and also led to pecuniary benefits to private domestic and foreign airlines," the ED had told the court.
Talwar was picked up by Dubai authorities in January in connection with the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP choppers money laundering case and deported to India.