New Delhi, August 7: The Delhi High Court Wednesday allowed managing director of a private firm, accused of irregularities amounting to Rs 705 crore in the running of the Mumbai airport, to appear before the CBI for questioning through video conferencing.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru allowed the request after the CBI conceded that Sartaj Ali, MD of Nice Projects Ltd, is not required to travel outside Delhi and the probe agency’s officials will examine him either through video conferencing or at his Delhi residence, news agency PTI reported.

The court was informed that Ali was 67-year-old and had various health issues and due to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, he be allowed to join the investigation only from his house.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, representing Ali, submitted that he was a senior citizen and susceptible to contact COVID-19, if mandated to travel from Delhi to Mumbai as it will include transit at airports and flights and shall involve him to stay there.

In the petition filed through advocates Urfee Haider and Kunal Srivastava, Ali has challenged the CBI notice directing him to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), EOW branch, Mumbai and produce certain documents.

The court, which disposed of the petition, was informed that he has already submitted the documents to the CBI.

Advocate Anupam S Sharma, appearing for the CBI, told the court that the agency officials were ready to examine Ali through video conferencing. Regarding the petitioner’s plea that a lawyer shall be permitted to be present at the time of interrogation by the CBI, the court said as Ali was being made to join through video conferencing and not being made to appear physically in Mumbai, hence this question of law is kept open.

According to the CBI, the case pertains to the alleged siphoning of Rs 705 crore from the funds of the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), a joint venture under public-private partnership (PPP) between the GVK Airport Holdings Limited and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) besides other investors, by showing inflated expenditure, under-reporting of revenues, fudging of records among others.

In July, the CBI had carried out searches at the offices of the GVK group in Mumbai and Hyderabad after registering a case against its chairman, Venkata Krishna Reddy Gunupati, in connection with alleged irregularities. The CBI has booked Gunupati, a director in MIAL, his son GV Sanjay Reddy, managing director in MIAL, the companies MIAL, GVK Airport Holdings Limited (a GVK group company) and nine other private firms allegedly used to camouflage the inflated figures through sham deals and unidentified AAI officials.

On April 4, 2006, the AAI entered into an agreement with MIAL for the modernisation, upkeep, operation and maintenance of the Mumbai airport.

It is alleged that the promoters of the GVK group in MIAL, in connivance with their executives and unidentified AAI officials, resorted to siphoning off funds using different ways.

The agency has alleged that they siphoned off funds showing execution of bogus work contracts to nine companies in 2017-18, causing a loss of Rs 310 crore.

The promoters of the GVK group allegedly misused the reserve funds of MIAL to the tune of Rs 395 crore to finance their group companies, the CBI has alleged.

The agency has alleged that the group inflated the expenditure figures of MIAL by showing payments to employees at their headquarters and group companies, who were not involved in the running of MIAL, causing a revenue loss to AAI.

In the complaint, the inflated expenditure figures are pegged at Rs 100 crore, which may take the total sum involved in the alleged scam to Rs 805 crore, but this has not been included in the FIR by the CBI.

The agency has attached the complaint to the FIR and the figures of the alleged scam may increase during the probe, the officials have said. The promoters allegedly under-reported the revenue earnings of MIAL by entering into contracts with related parties and meeting their personal and family expenses using MIAL funds, they said.

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