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Air India pilots write to PM Modi, expressing willingness to fly planes to Kerala on ‘voluntary basis’

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Air India

New Delhi | The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing its willingness to fly planes to Kerala on a “voluntary basis” in the larger interest of the affected people in the state.

“We are willing to fly the planes without payment on a voluntary basis to the cause of these operations. We consider this a unique privilege that we can use to assist in such operations,” the association said in the letter.

“We have full faith that Sir you will surely turn your attention to the plight of Air India and Air Indians once calm is restored,” the letter stated.

The association’s letter to the prime minister comes a day after the pilots threatened to stop operations if their flying allowance dues were not paid immediately.

“ICPA pilots on the Airbus 320 and Boeing 787 in Air India are ready and committed to the cause of OPERATION MADAD & OPERATION SAHYOG. We will support the government and the PMO in the endeavor to help our fellow citizens in Kerala,” the letter said.

Air India has always come forward during natural calamities by operating relief flights and by evacuating Indians from war zones like Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon or Yemen, General Secretary of the association T. Praveen Keerthi said.

“We are ready for any help as pilots on a voluntary basis for Kerala like we have always done in the past,” the letter added.

National

India, Spain discuss cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism

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Sushma Swaraj is warmly received by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontellas at the Viana Palace, Minister’s official residence

Madrid | India and Spain on Tuesday discussed cooperation in trade, defence and counter terrorism as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Spanish counterpart Josep Borrell.

On behalf the government, Swaraj also accepted the prestigious Grand Cross of Order of Civil Merit conferred by Spain in recognition of India’s support in evacuating 71 Spanish nationals during April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

Swaraj was warmly received by Borrell at the Viana Palace, his official residence, ahead of the meeting. This was their third meeting in five months.

“EAM Swaraj and Spanish Foreign Minister held detailed talks over a working breakfast. Took stock of relationship across the spectrum, specially in trade & investment, defence & security, counter terrorism, culture and tourism,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

Swaraj, who arrived in Spain on Monday, also interacted with the Indian community in Spain and thanked them for their contribution in diverse fields and promoting India-Spain relations.

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Appellate Tribunal scraps ₹ 2,000 crore tax demand of Harshad Mehta 17 years after his death

Ali Azar

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The original “big bull” or as some articles stated “raging bull” of the Indian stock market from way back in the late 1980’s and early 90’s – Harshad Mehta, who also happens to have perpetrated the biggest stock market scam, which is pegged to be in the vicinity of 4,000 to 5,000 crores in the 90’s, is back in the news again, some 17 years after his death, at the age of just 47, during custody.

There is good news for the late Harshad Mehta and his family which includes his wife Jyoti and his brother Ashwin. After 27 years of an intense battle involving claims, couter-claims and cross appeals, an Income Tax demand on him and his family members, of little above ₹ 2,000 crores has finally been scrapped by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), reviving memories of the 1992 securities scam that shook the country and changed the rules of the game on Dalal Street.

The ITAT while scrapping the additions made by the IT Department for the assessment year 1992-93, made an observation that every receipt of money cannot be termed as a taxable income by default, and it is the job of the department to compute the correct taxable income embedded in every transaction. The Tribunal reiterated that this cardinal principle of taxation must be followed notwithstanding the magnitude of the scam and in spite of probes and observations by Joint Parliamentary Committee, RBI, CBI and the seizure of volumes of documents by the IT Department.

The scam perpetrated by Harshad Metha involved colluding with bank employees to get fake bank receipts issued to him. He then used these fake bank receipts to make other banks lend him money against those receipts, and used the proceeds to invest in the stock market and artificially drive up the price of stocks. In one case he took the share price of ACC Cement up from ₹ 200 to ₹ 9000, which was an increase of 4400%.

However, the day he sold the shares to book profits, volumes were so large that the entire market crashed.

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Robert Vadra skips ED appearance, cites bad health

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Robert Vadra

New Delhi | Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Tuesday skipped his scheduled appearance before the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case probe, citing his bad health, officials said.

They said Vadra’s lawyers informed the investigating officer (IO) of the case their client is unwell and hence will be unable to join the probe related to allegations of money laundering to purchase assets abroad.

They said the businessman, also the son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, may appear either on Wednesday or on a mutually acceptable date later this week. Vadra was questioned by the ED in this case for 23 hours over three days of deposition earlier this month. He has been asked by a Delhi court to cooperate in the probe being conducted by the central probe agency.

The ED case against Vadra relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property located at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million GBP (British pounds), which is allegedly owned by him.

The agency had told the court that it has received information about various new properties in London which belong to Vadra. These include two houses, one worth 5 million GBP and the other valued at 4 million GBP, six other flats and more properties.

Vadra has denied the allegations of possessing illegal foreign assets and termed them a political witch hunt against him. He said he was being “hounded and harassed” to subserve political ends.

Sources said Vadra’s statement was recorded under Section 50 (powers of authorities regarding summons, production of documents and to give evidence) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), on the last three occasions.

His appearance before the ED earlier this month acquired political overtones after his wife Priyanka Gandhi, recently appointed Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, accompanied him to the investigating agency’s office on one day while she picked him up after questioning the next time.

Vadra had similarly deposed before the ED twice in Jaipur in an another money-laundering case related to an alleged land scam in Bikaner.

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