BY ANAND SINGH
New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) Caught in the eye of the storm over ‘Dawood-Mirchi’ links, former Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel faces yet another embarrassment for frequently using private jets of Wadhawans, accused in the Rs 4,355 crore Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative(PMC) bank scam.
Documents which are part of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), reveal that Patel, as the then Union Minister of Heavy Industry was a frequent flier on Wadhawans’ luxury private jet Bombardier Challenger 300.
The passenger manifest report of Mumbai Airport, dated March 31, 2012, reveals that Patel, Rakesh Wadhawan, promoter of Wadhawan group, Bollywood actress Preity Zinta and a few other VIPs boarded AVT PIL Bombardier for Delhi from Mumbai at 4.30 p.m.
After a few weeks on 28 May, 2012, Patel boarded Wadhawan’s Bombardier for his constituency Gondia from Mumbai with an American citizen identified as A. Scott, one Miss Kim Bora and two other passengers. A month later on June 23, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader charted VT PIL Bombardier again when he flew from Mumbai to Delhi.
Sources in the ED said that Patel as then Union Minister continued to charter Wadhwan’s private jets for a long time.
Involved in the dubious land deals allegedly executed by front man of drug kingpin Iqbal Mirchi, the NCP leader had been close to HDIL Chairman Rakesh Wadhawan, arrested in the multi-crore PMC bank scam, on charges of siphoning off public funds.
During investigation, ED sleuths discovered that Wadhawans owned a company, Privilege Airways Pvt Ltd, which purchased two ultra-luxury jets Falcon 2000 and Bomabardier Challenger 300, out of the public funds.
Both aircrafts were seized by the ED along with a fleet of Rolls Royce, Mercedes and BMW cars. The agency later procured the passenger list of both the aircraft to ascertain whether luxury jets were loaned or given to the VIPs for a free ride.
Sources said that the list procured from the airport authorities reflect that Patel, his family and friends were the frequent fliers.
While talking to media persons in Mumbai on Tuesday, Patel denied any links with D-company or Iqbal Mirchi and clarified that no money was exchanged with any member relating to any land deals. On links with Wadhawans and hiring his jets frequently despite being a public servant (Union Minister), Patel’s version has yet to come.
Sources said that Wadhawans, arrested in the PMC Bank scam had loaned their private jets to many politicians and Bollywood stars during the past 7-8 years.
BY ANAND SINGH