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Prashant Bhushan alleges Praful Patel inflated Air India project cost; complains to CBI

Thursday, 12 June 2014 - 7:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Senior Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party founder member, Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation against former Union minister Praful Patel in connection with a 2006-proposal of Air India to procure passenger identification system from a Canadian company.

Bhushan has alleged in the complaint that the minister and a few others sought to place an order with Canadian firm, Cryptometrics, for a passenger identification system for Air India at an inflated price in return for a consideration.

CBI stated that once the complaint is received officially, it will be looked into. "We will look into the complaint and take necessary action if needed," said a senior CBI officials.

Bhushan has based his complaint mainly on an Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada that had convicted Nazir Karigar of Cryptometrics on August 15, 2013, for offering a bribe to Patel and former Air India chief V. Thulasidas to secure a contract to supply a biometric passenger identification system for Air India. The court sentenced Karigar to three years in prison on May 23 this year.

In his letter, Bhushan stated that registration of FIR becomes imperative after the Canadian court's decision and revelations made by former Air India executive director Jitender Bhargava in his book.

"This case is a good example as to how costly projects were conceived by the civil aviation minister and Air India chairperson with the sole intention of siphoning off money," Bhushan wrote in the complaint. He further stated that Bhargava's book lists further such examples including, purchase and leasing of aircraft, and their refurbishment and conversion.

"All these projects were being designed in order to serve the corrupt designs of the ministry and Air India management. In view of these glaring facts, I implore you to immediately register a RC/FIR and get this matter thoroughly investigated so that all those guilty can be swiftly prosecuted," he wrote.

Offering details, Bhushan said that initially the "cost estimate of the security department was about Rs 75 lakh, but the tender committee pegged the cost at a whopping Rs 500 crore on the basis of bids received."

In response to a tender for the purchase of biometric passenger identification system, 20 bids were received, including one by PSU Electronic Corporation of India (ECI). Eighteen bids were rejected including the ECI's. Two that survived the shortlisting were Canadian firms, of which one was allegedly a bogus firm.

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