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CBI files cases in aircraft purchase matter

IANS | New Delhi |

The CBI on Monday registered three cases against unnamed Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India officials in the issue of purchase of 111 Boeing aircraft worth Rs.70,000 crore and alleged corruption in handing over international airline routes to private airlines during the UPA regime.

Apart from Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India officials, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked some private unnamed companies in its FIRs lodged under sections of criminal conspiracy and cheating of Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The FIRs do not mention any public official by name but are built around a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted to Parliament in 2011 and a subsequent report by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC). 

Both reports pointed out glaring gaps in the acquisition process which caused to the national air carrier to face a financial crunch, a CBI official said. 

The cases come on the heels of the CBI raiding former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti in a money laundering case. 

The agency took the step of Supreme Court's January 5 order pertaining to the affairs of the Civil Aviation Ministry under the previous United Progressive Alliance government. 

The court has reportedly asked the CBI to complete the probe by June while hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan on the purchase of the Boeing aircraft.

The first FIR related to purchase of 111 aircraft for Air India costing about Rs 70,000 crore to benefit foreign aircraft manufacturers while the second mentions leasing of a large number of aircraft without due consideration, proper route study, and marketing or price strategy. 

A CBI official said the aircraft were leased even while aircraft acquisition programme was going on. 

The official said the agency in its third FIR will probe the cause of giving up profit-making routes and profit making timings of Air India in favour of national and international private airlines causing a huge loss to the national carrier. 

The agency also registered a preliminary inquiry to look into the allegations relating to the issue of merger of two national carriers – Air India and Indian Airlines – causing loss to the national exchequer, the official said.