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Lalit Modi got Bombardier aircraft in dummy firm’s name?

New Delhi,Shrimi Choudhary: The purchase of an aircraft in 2008-09 by Lalit Modi has now stirred up another controversy.

In a statement to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recorded last week, Pradeep Thampi, director, Golden Wings, which imported the Bombardier aircraft for Modi, has alleged that seven companies paid Rs 10.58 crore to his company on behalf of Modi’s travel expenses, both in India and abroad.

ED is on the trail to verify the allegation made by Thampi and soon to call respective companies for questioning. The companies he named are Percept Pictures, Ansal Properties and Infrastructure, Global Sports Broadcast Services, Ananda Heritage Hotels, Zoom Communication, Netlinkblue and DNA Entertainment Network (this Bangalore-based company has no connection with dna newspaper).

Delhi-based Ansal Properties and Jaipur-based Ananda Heritage had alleged to have paid (Rs 1.07 crore), while Gurgoan-based Zoom and Singapore-based Global Sports, Rs 1.29 crore and Rs 3.57 crore respectively.

Dubai-based Netlinkblue paid Rs 3.5 crore while DNA Entertainment and Mumbai-based Percept Pictures paid Rs 89 lakh and Rs 25 lakh respectively.

“The total travel expenses made by Modi in between 2008 and 2010 stood at Rs 24 crore, which are mostly paid by respective companies. Some more companies had also paid, and they need to be identified,” a senior ED official told dna.

This new revelation of Thampi has already put these companies on the investigating agency’s radar.

“The agency will soon issue summons to owners/directors/officials concerned of all the companies for reason behind favour. However, it is not clear that the said companies are being involved or not in any wrong-doing. We are also cross-checking Thampi’s statement,” said ED officials.

When contacted by dna, Percept Pictures vice-chairman & MD Harindra Singh denied the allegation. He said, “I have not made any payment to GWPL. I had travelled once from Mumbai to Singapore with a few other passengers on an invite of Modi for F1 event in 2008. But there is no question of bill coming to me and any payment made by me.”

Despite several reminders, other companies did not get back with response.

According to ED sources, Thampi in his statement has given all the crucial details of the aircraft deal. He said, “The Bombardier aircraft was imported in the name of GWPL from the Ireland’s Peel Aviation on a seven-year lease of worth Rs 10.85 crore.”

Peel Aviation is the company set up by Modi for the fraudulent import of aircraft, according to the show-cause notice issued by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to Modi in 2013.

As per the notice, Lalit Modi, GWPL director Pradeep Thampi and six other directors of the GWPL were the accused of customs duty evasion of Rs 18.79 crore in the aircraft deal.

“Modi appears to be the mastermind behind the entire conspiracy. He wanted to acquire an aircraft for his private use in India but did not want to purchase the same in his own name. It appears that he have created a dummy company Peel Aviation to be projected as the owner/lessor of the aircraft. Thereafter, he used GWPL to import the aircraft into India,” said the notice.

Modi used the aircraft during his trips related to IPL both in India and abroad. Around 86% of flying hours were used to transport Modi, according to the notice. The aircraft’s last trip was to the United Kingdom on July 20, 2010 and since then it is parked at Beggin Hills airport. The aircraft was seized by DRI a few months ago.

Thampi further stated, “None of the officials from the respective companies ever travelled on Modi’s aircraft.”

Thampi was called by the agency for his statement under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). “His statement was based on the case which was registered by BCCI’s Srinivasan against Modi and others in Chennai police station, charging them with alleged embezzlement of funds and cheating the cricketing body in the awarding of telecast rights,” said officials.

BCCI CEO Sundar Raman and Multi Screen Media CEO Manjit Singh are among others whose statements are also recorded under PML Act in last one week.

Even multiple teams within ED is working jointly to fast-track all legal procedures related to IPL and its former chairman.

The ED registered its own criminal case under PMLA early this year and later carried out searches in Gurgaon and Delhi to probe this deal which it suspects generated tainted funds.

In its show-cause issued in February under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for the same case, ED had charged Modi of sending ‘fraud’ e-mails and being a suspect beneficiary of Rs 125 crore illegal funds in connection with its Rs 425 crore forex violations probe for granting media rights of the T-20 tournament in 2009 by BCCI.