* CBI registers three cases against Air India
* Air India losing market share to private local carriers
* Decision on Air India's future to be made in 3 months -
(Adds details from CBI statement, context)
NEW DELHI, May 30 India's civil aviation
ministry will cooperate with a federal investigation into
alleged irregularities in the purchase of 111 aircraft by
state-run carrier Air India and into its merger with Indian
Airlines, the civil aviation minister said on Tuesday.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Monday it
had registered three cases against Air India and launched a
preliminary investigation into "unknown" officials at the civil
aviation ministry. (here)
All the cases relate to decisions and deals made under the
previous Congress party government, which lost power in 2014.
Air India purchased 111 aircraft for about 700 billion
rupees ($10.8 billion) a decade ago, and the CBI said the deal
was damaging, benefiting foreign planemakers while landing Air
India with losses.
The CBI is also investigating Air India's decision to lease
a large number of aircraft which it said was "without due
consideration, proper route study and marketing or price
The third case relates to why profit-making routes flown by
Air India were axed, a move the agency said helped rival private
airlines while causing "a huge loss to the national carrier".
The agency has also launched a preliminary case against
"unknown" officials at the ministry of civil aviation into
allegations relating to the merger of India's two national
carriers - Air India and Indian Airlines - that it said deprived
the national exchequer of funds when the financially stretched
airline was bailed out later.
"Whatever knowledge we have, we will cooperate with them,"
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju told reporters in
New Delhi, referring to the CBI.
The CBI initiated its probe on the orders of India's top
court in January, and it said further investigations were
Loss-making Air India has seen much of its market share
disappear to fast-growing private local carriers and
international airlines in the last decade.
Raju said all options were open when asked about comments
this month from India's finance minister Arun Jaitley, who said
the government should consider privatising Air India.
A civil aviation ministry official said a decision on the
future of Air India is likely to be made within the next three
($1 = 64.6300 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Malini Menon and