In more troubles for the former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday questioned him for over six hours in its probe into the Air India aircraft deal case, first time since his release from Tihar jail almost a month ago.
A senior ED official told IANS, "We questioned Chidambaram for over six hours today in the ongoing probe into the Air India deal with Airbus."
According to financial probe agency officials, Air India had planned to buy over 111 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing during the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009. This is the first time the ED has questioned the senior Congress leader in the Air India deal case.
The questioning of Chidambaram came for the first time since his release from the Tihar jail where he spent 106 days in connection with the INX media money laundering case. He was released from Tihar on December 4 last year after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court. The former finance minister is also being investigated by the ED in a separate money-laundering cases of Aircel-Maxis deal.
An ED official said the contract to buy 43 aircraft from Airbus was finalised by a panel of ministers headed by Chidambaram in 2009. According to the ED, when the proposal to buy 43 aircraft from Airbus was sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), there was a condition that the aircraft manufacturer would have to build training facilities and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) centres at a cost of Rs 70,000 crore. But later, when the purchase order was placed, the clause was removed.
The name of another UPA minister, Praful Patel, had also come up in the alleged scam in a chargesheet filed by the ED against corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar on March 30 last year. Talwar was arrested last year by the ED after he was deported from the UAE.
The ED is probing the Air India-Indian Airlines merger; purchase of 111 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus at Rs 70,000 crore; ceding profitable routes and schedules to private airlines, and opening of training institutes with foreign investment.
(With inputs from IANS)