PM clears Praful in Canadian bribery case



New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cleared Union Minister Praful Patel of allegations that he took a kickback when he was Civil Aviation Minister from a Canadian businessman for an Air India contract for supply of security equipment.

In a letter to Patel, the Prime Minister is understood to have told him that the External Affairs Ministry has been asked to convey to Canada that the contract was never executed as it was not found to be cost-effective.

Patel had termed as "baseless and preposterous" the allegations by Indian-born Canadian Nazir Karigar that a close associate of the minister was paid USD 2.50 lakh for getting the contract for a computerised passenger face recognition biometrics system for Air India approved.

Following this, Patel had written to the Prime Minister urging him to direct Air India to forward all relevant information and documents of the tender to PMO or to any agency nominated by him for a probe.

Patel had wanted that the "factual position" be conveyed to the authorities in Canada in order to avoid any embarrassment to the government or to him personally.

The Prime Minister said that the Civil Aviation Ministry has clarified that the relevant tender was not pursued by Air India as it was not cost-effective and would lower its yield.

The Ministry further clarified that all such acquisitions were within the purview of the airline itself and were not required to be referred to it.

Two days ago, the CBI had denied having registered any Preliminary Enquiry or Regular Case in this connection, following reports that the agency had begun "discreet enquiries".

Patel had earlier told PTI that the bribery charges, as reported in a Canadian daily, appeared to be "a perfect con job" by Karigar trying to convince his company that he could deliver a contract if he is paid.

The Canadian Justice Department is planning to prosecute Karigar on charges that he violated the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, a law that forbids payment of bribes abroad. The case is scheduled to be heard in September.

PTI