Lobbyist Talwar bribed to help foreign airlines: Report

File PTI photo of Lobbyist Deepak Talwar

Probe agencies are investigating corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar's links with over 50 domestic and overseas firms that are suspected to be "fronts" to launder illicit funds he got from his clients, according to a probe report.

According to it, Talwar paid bribes to bureaucrats and politicians to secure "favourable" air traffic rights for his foreign clients and received over Rs 272 crore funds from these airlines as "compensation for the favours secured".

Talwar was deported to India from Dubai early this year after which he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI for his alleged role in lobbying in various UPA-era government deals, primarily in the aviation sector.

He is in judicial custody at present and has denied all allegations made by probe agencies against him.

The businessman has been charged with illegally managing to secure favourable traffic rights for at least three foreign airlines, during 2008-09, at the cost of national carrier, Air India.

The report, accessed by PTI, states, "Investigation revealed that Deepak Talwar used various entities in the name of his son Aditya Talwar, family members and associates to receive the exorbitant amount from Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways."

"These receipts are proceeds of crime generated by Talwar for the purpose of paying illegal gratification to the public servants in India in getting favourable air traffic rights for them (foreign airlines operating in India)," the ED has said in its probe report linked to a money laundering case against Talwar.

All the three airlines, it said, made a "huge" payment to Talwar which were credited in the account of Asia Field Ltd and Gilt Assets Management Ltd, though in the name of other persons, yet effectively controlled by Talwar.

The federal agency's probe found that in order to launder the money earned from his criminal activities, Talwar "rotated and layered" huge money through a web of companies incorporated in India and abroad and finally received the money into his as well as in the bank accounts of companies owned by him, his family members and associates.

"Talwar and his family members have been associated with several foreign companies, about 20, and 33 companies in India," it said.

The ED and the Income Tax Department are now investigating these these entities to take their probe in this case forward, officials said.

The alleged lobbyist, the report said, had good connections with top-notch persons that helped him swing the deals through lobbying.

"Talwar is a lobbyist who has been in business for long. He uses his proximity with top bureaucrats and politicians to grab the opportunity that comes his way. Using his network of connections, he has opened doors everywhere and attracted various high profile clients spreading across international arena."

"Talwar has been closely associated with the civil aviation, FIPB (foreign investment promotion board) and infrastructure sectors and has been instrumental in getting approvals for several foreign airlines, mainly the Gulf airlines," the report said.

Identifying Talwar as a "familiar face" in the circuit after the liberalisation era in 1991, the report said the alleged lobbyist had capability of networking with influential persons all across the country and abroad.

"With shrewdness to develop connections with politicians, government officials and public servants, Talwar lured his clients to get their interest secured even in the case where a change of policy is also required," the report alleged.

Talwar set up "front companies" to use the money generated from illegal activities, it charged.

The agency described the modus operandi of the multi-layered global money laundering transactions.

"Front companies are incorporated in countries with corporate secrecy laws, in which criminals lend themselves their own laundered proceeds in an apparently legitimate transactions.

"Money laundering using known foreign banks represents a higher order of sophistication and presents a very difficult target for law enforcement. The willing assistance of the foreign banks is frequently protected against law enforcement scrutiny," it said.

Talwar, the report said, made his way out and laundered the proceeds of crime, projected them un-tainted and utilised ill-gotten money to invest in various movable and immovable assets.

The ED has also charged Talwar with "misleading" investigation in the case by tendering false statement during questioning.

It said Talwar "cleverly denied any relations" with Qatar Airways on the issue of bi-laterals with India related to seat entitlements.

In connection with his dealings with Air Arabia, the ED said Talwar has "immorally" shifted the responsibility of these exchanges on an associate of his who has died.

"It is unfortunate to mention that the person who has been made responsible for entire design to get favourable air traffic rights for Air Arabia in lieu of the disproportionate compensation from them is Sanjeev Rai Puri and he has departed to the heavenly abode."

The report also talks about Talwar's association with former civil aviation minister Praful Patel, with whom, it said, he used to meet socially.

"Talwar disclosed that he prepared various letters for Air Arabia to be addressed to Patel, the then civil aviation minister." 

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