In what can be considered a shot in the arm for Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigations into a money lending probe against the extradited lobbyist Deepak Talwar, it has been reported that intense questioning by ED in connection with alleged payoffs to the tune of more than Rs. 270 crore deposited in the Bank of Singapore Account of Deepak Talwar by international air carriers, has brought into focus the link between top ministers and bureaucrats during the UPA era and corporate lobbyist, Deepak Talwar.
Talwar, known for his access to civil aviation circles, is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in relation to a money trail of Rs. 90 crore. It is being suspected that the said amount was withdrawn from the bank accounts of Talwar-controlled entities and thereafter distributed to politicians and bureaucrats who could have been instrumental in tweaking rules that benefitted certain international airlines.
Talwar was deported from Dubai on January 31. Thereafter, he was sent to ED custody by a Delhi Court till February 12 in connection with a money laundering case that was lodged against him in 2017. According to sources, ED has received details of $55 million that was deposited in Bank of Singapore accounts of companies allegedly “owned and controlled” by Talwar between 2008 and 2012. Four major international airlines are alleged to have transferred such hefty amounts. ED had named four major airlines in the remand note while seeking custody of Talwar. The airlines are Emirates, Air Asia, Air Arabia, and Qatar Airways. This seems to be in conformity with the ED investigations over the past two years which had found that Talwar had received kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 270 crore from foreign airlines and aircraft manufacturer Airbus. He allegedly received these kickbacks in order to illegally benefit these airlines and manufacturer by using his contacts within the civil aviation circles and withdrawing Air India’s operations from some lucrative and profit earning routes. This would have obviously dealt a massive blow to Air India which is India’s national air carrier. This, by necessary implication, meant that the financial health and profits of Air India were sacrificed for the foreign airlines. As per the details with the ED, it first of such payments were received by a Deepak Talwar-owned entity from Emirates in Bank of Singapore on June 3, 2008, for $23 million. At that time, Praful Patel was holding the Civil Aviation portfolio. Merely two months later, Emirates again transferred another $11 million in Bank of Singapore in the accounts of a “company owned and controlled by Talwar”. This was followed by payments from Air Arabia, Qatar Airways and Air Asia in the later months.
Deepak Talwar’s extradition followed by intense questioning by the ED, is, therefore, yielding impressive results. The details of the transfer of funds that have emerged from his questioning and alleged links between top ministers and bureaucrats during the UPA era with the corporate lobbyist have been brought into focus in a big way. The allegation that Talwar was paid kickbacks in order to use his influence and get the services of Air India on lucrative and highly profitable routes withdrawn is indeed quite serious. Further investigation into this case could lead to even more serious discoveries and point out how a corporate lobbyist was able to exercise considerable influence within the civil aviation circles.