P Chidambaram questioned by ED in Rs 70,000 crore aircraft deal during UPA-1
The CAG had raised a red flag on the deal while terming the decision to purchase 111 planes through a debt arrangement, “a recipe for disaster”. The CAG noted that the decision was taken when the airlines were “in a crisis”.Updated: Jan 03, 2020 18:51 IST
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday in connection with the decision to purchase 111 aircrafts for Air India and Indian Airlines at a value of Rs 70,000 crore in 2009.
An ED official said the former finance minister was summoned for questioning by the agency probing the money laundering angle in the aircraft deal since he headed the empowered group of ministers which took the decision to purchase the aircrafts in the first term of the Congress-led UPA government.
He added that Chidambaram was questioned for almost six hours on Friday. The ED had also tried to question him in the case earlier in August 2019, but he was then in CBI custody in the INX Media corruption case.
The senior Congress leader was released from jail on December 4 last year after staying in Tihar for over 100 days. CBI had arrested him on August 21, 2019. When contacted on Friday, Chidambaram refused to comment.
The case pertains to alleged losses suffered by Air India due to the purchase decision and irregularities in fixing air slots for international airlines. The CBI is probing the corruption angle in the purchase apart from three other matters related to Air India - leasing of a large number of aircrafts by AI without consideration; surrendering of profit-making routes to favour private airlines and the merger of Air India with Indian Airlines.
The probe is being carried out on the direction of the Supreme Court of India.
The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) had raised a red flag on the deal while terming the decision to purchase 111 planes through a debt arrangement, “a recipe for disaster”. The CAG noted that the decision was taken when the airlines were “in a crisis”.
The original proposal was to buy a total of 28 planes for Air India and Indian Airlines. But the government ultimately decided to buy 68 planes for Air India from Boeing and another 43 for Indian Airlines from Airbus.