Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel
Defence Ministry discriminated against Indian PSU says Praful Patel (Wiki Commons)Wiki Commons

After denying connections and links with D-company or Iqbal Mirchi as "mere speculation," Senior NCP and former union minister Praful Patel is under the radar of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) yet again.

This time the former Union Civil Aviation minister faces embarrassment for having frequently chartered private jets of PMC bank scam-accused, Wadhawans. 

During the past 7-8 years, the Wadhawans who are arrested in the Rs 4,355 crore Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) scam on charges of siphoning off public funds, loaned their private jets to several Bollywood celebrities and politicians. 

According to the ED documents, Patel and his family were frequent flier on Wadhawans' luxury private jet Bombardier Challenger 300 when he was the Union Minister of Heavy Industry. 

Patel was close to  HDIL Chairman Rakesh Wadhawan, who owned a company, Privilege Airways Pvt Ltd, which purchased two ultra-luxury jets Falcon 2000 and Bombardier Challenger 300, out of the public funds.

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 pm.

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.

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 aircrafts to ascertain whether luxury jets were loaned or given to the VIPs for a free ride.

On links with Wadhawans and hiring his jets frequently despite being a public servant (Union Minister), Patel's version has yet to come.

The 'Dawood-Mirchi' Link

On Tuesday, Patel dismissed any charges of links as mere speculation with D-company or Iqbal Mirchi and clarified that no money was exchanged with any member relating to any land deals claiming that the alleged scam may have been "leaked" to media.

During a media briefing, Patel said, "It's obvious you are in possession of some papers, which have never been brought to my attention."

The Patel family allegedly entered into a property transaction with Hajera Memon, the widow of drug mafia Iqbal Mirchi, who died in 2013

Dawood Ibrahim
Creative Commons

After the alleged scam broke out, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) entered the picture by summoning Patel on October 18 to probe a possible money-laundering angle to the deal.

The ED summoned the senior leader in connection with the alleged deal linked to illegal assets of late Iqbal Mirchi on October 18 but Patel denied that he had received any communication from the ED so far.

In connection with a deal with a real estate company Millennium Developers Pvt Ltd which was promoted by Patel and his wife along with Hajira Menon which constructed a building called Ceejay House in 2006-07, the ED is expected to record Patel's statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). 

In this building, two floors were transferred to Mirchi's widow, but Patel claimed that she had got these through M.K. Mohammad who earlier owned restaurants on the property that was knotted in legal disputes.

Patel emphatically said that his family firm owns the building and there are no other partners and the property was bought from a royal family around 55 years ago.

Besides, Patel claimed that Mohammad secured a share in the property through a Bombay High Court order after he proved that he owned a part of the original plot where the Ceejay House is located.

The NCP leader pointed out that the entire deal took place under the supervision of the court and Mohammad was ordered to pay Rs 700,000 to the court receiver.

Later, in April 1980, Mohammad assigned the rights of his property to Hajera Memon, who even paid Rs 7 lakh to the court receiver as ordered earlier.

Patel said Hajera Memon got the property deed from Mohammad and neither he nor his family had any financial dealings with her.

"All these issues have been in public domain, she has been a taxpayer, there were no restrictions on her and 20 years ago, she was issued a passport to travel to UAE and Saudi Arabia," he said.

The issue has come as a huge embarrassment to the NCP just six days before the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections, and Patel cut short his election campaign tour to address the media as the issue threatened to snowball into a huge pre-poll controversy.

(With inputs from agency)