CBI lodges cases to probe IA-AI merger
The CBI on Monday registered three FIRs to probe alleged irregularities in purchase and lease of aircraft by Air India and Indian Airlines and surrender of lucrative routes in favour of foreign carriers under the UPA rule which caused "huge" losses to the state exchequer. The agency has also registered a preliminary enquiry to look into the merger of Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines which the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had called "ill-timed".
The cases have bee registered against unidentified officials of Air India, Ministry of Civil Aviation and others under charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption, CBI spokesperson R K Gaur said.
The cases relate to decisions taken by the ministry during the tenure of the UPA which caused losses of "tens of thousands of crore of rupees" to the exchequer, he said.
"The allegations relate to purchase of 111 aircraft for national airlines costing about Rs 70,000 crore to benefit foreign aircraft manufacturers. Such a purchase caused an alleged financial loss to the already stressed national carriers," Gaur said about the first FIR.
The CAG had in 2011 questioned the rationale behind the government's decision to order 111 aeroplanes for AI and Indian Airlines--48 from Airbus and 68 from Boeing for about Rs 70,000 crore in 2006. Calling the decision a "recipe for disaster", the government auditor has said it should have raised "alarm" in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Public Investment Board and The planning commission.
The second case pertains to the leasing of a large number of aircraft without due consideration, proper route study and marketing or price strategy, he said. The third caseinvolves allegations of the surrender of profitable routes and timings of Air India to favour national and international private players which alleged caused a "huge" loss to the state-run carrier.