ED finds Praful Patel used plane owned by HDIL associate firm

Khushboo Narayan
Former Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found that one of the aircraft owned by an associate firm of the Housing Development India Ltd (HDIL) — a Falcon 2000 VT HDL — has been used on multiple occasions by NCP leader and former Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel for personal use, The Indian Express has learnt.

According to passenger manifest collected by the ED, Patel traveled several times in the aircraft between 2010 and 2012. Records, it is learnt, also show that on several occasions he NCP was accompanied by HDIL’s arrested promoters, Rakesh Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan.

Read | Praful Patel gets ED summons for Oct 18, says court receiver oversaw transactions

When contacted, Praful Patel told The Indian Express, “I have no financial dealings or transactions with HDIL, Wadhawans or PMC Bank.”

Sources close to Patel said it is not a crime to use someone’s aircraft for travelling and asked what rule he violated.

The aircraft used by Patel is owned by Privilege Airways Private Limited, which has borrowed approximately Rs 102 crore from Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank.

Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan have been arrested by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police in connection with the Rs 4,355-crore fraud at PMC Bank.

The promoters of HDIL are known to be close to the NCP leader.

Also read | No connection with Iqbal Mirchi, says Praful Patel after receiving ED summons

In October 2007, when Patel was Civil Aviation Minister with the UPA government, HDIL bagged a contract to rehabilitate slum-dwellers encroaching on Mumbai airport land. The country’s largest slum redevelopment and rehabilitation project, it entailed building new tenements for 85,000 families and relocating them, freeing up 276 acres for Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) to build a new terminal and expand the runway.

In 2013, MIAL terminated HDIL’s contract after the project got stuck due to regulatory delays. This led to financial troubles at HDIL, which had already invested nearly Rs 4,000 crore in the project.

HDIL is also facing bankruptcy proceedings at the National Company Law Tribunal under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

PMC Bank has an exposure of over Rs 6,200 crore to HDIL. The bank is under regulatory restrictions after the Reserve Bank of India found financial irregularities in its functioning, hiding and classification of loans given to HDIL.

The ongoing investigation has found that there were nearly 44 accounts at the bank that were password-protected. Sources said a lot of money has been diverted to these accounts linked to the Wadhawans and HDIL-linked entities. The police are also probing 21,049 dummy accounts created by the bank to hide its bad loans.