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Last Updated : Oct 07, 2018 12:34 PM IST | Source:

Air India's flying pacts with Gulf nations under ED scanner: Report

The investigating agency will assess the impact of these bilateral agreements on the operations of debt-laden Air India and aircraft purchases between 2001 and 2012

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating Air India's bilateral air services agreements between 2001 and 2012 with Gulf countries, The Economic Times reported.

The investigating agency will assess the impact of these bilateral agreements on the operations of debt-laden Air India and aircraft purchases during this period.

"ED has sought details of bilaterals signed with Gulf countries between 2001 and 2012 and documents signed with Dubai, Sharjah, and Qatar during the period,” a senior government official told the paper.

The official added that the agency is looking at the government's decision to sign separate bilaterals with Dubai and Abu Dhabi and not one bilateral with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah are members of the seven-emirate UAE.

Read: Aviation Ministry asks FinMin to decide on Air India funding soon: Report

The move comes after the Crime Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a first information report (FIR) alleging involvement of non-state entities in the bilateral agreements, the report stated. The CBI has been inquiring into Air India's alleged irregularities concerning the purchase of planes, aircraft leasing, diversion of routes and the establishment of an Airbus maintenance, repair, overhaul, and training facility.

The ED is scrutinising the documents along with comments by airline officials made at that time to 'investigate whether any exceptions' were made to 'benefit' some companies, the report said.

While negotiating bilaterals, the ministry usually seeks the views of Indian carriers on whether they need flying rights with a particular country. According to the report, the officials under the scanner are not posted in the Aviation Ministry at present.

Currently, Air India is seeking another government bailout as the national carrier is estimated to have a debt burden of over Rs 50,000 crore. Earlier this year, efforts for strategic disinvestment of the airline failed to take off.

Read: Govt to finalise Air India revival package in 10-15 days, says Civil Aviation Secy RN Choubey

In a 2013 report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had pointed at Air India's over-generous expansion of entitlements beyond genuine requirements for point-to-point flights, such as India-Dubai. It stated that the route did not provide a level playing field for Air India.

Air India and Indian Airlines had signed a deal in 2006 to purchase 111 planes from Boeing and Airbus for a list price of $11 billion. The purchase, scheduled to take place between 2008 and 2017 was part of their expansion plans. The two state-owned carriers merged in 2007.

First Published on Oct 7, 2018 12:34 pm
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