Did Dawood Ibrahim Aid the Rise of Jet Airways – and Naresh Goyal?
Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim (left) and Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal.
Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim (left) and Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal. (Photo: Twitter, Reuters/Altered by The Quint)

Did Dawood Ibrahim Aid the Rise of Jet Airways – and Naresh Goyal?

Investigative journalist Josy Joseph’s 2016 book A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India unveiled shocking information about links between underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal in the 2000s. An extract in the book talked of intelligence information on the matter, and the rise and rise of Jet Airways with Dawood’s aid, and the politicians involved in the ‘scam’.

The following takeaways from the excerpt were originally published on 26 July 2016. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Goyal’s exit as the chairman.

  • In 2002, senior Intelligence Bureau officer, Anjan Ghosh wrote a letter to Sangita Gairola, the then joint secretary at the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The single-page letter said that Ghosh’s agency had information that Naresh Goyal had close ties with Dawood Ibrahim.
“There is strong suspicion that parts of Goyal’s investments may have accrued through the help of und­erworld groups, prominently headed by Dawood and Chhota Shakeel.”
An excerpt from the letter
  • LK Advani, the then Deputy prime minister, in a meeting with Ghosh and IB chief KP Singh expressed shock at the agency’s findings about the dubious money trail supporting Jet Airways. But nothing came of the meeting later.
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Before 2002

  • In 2000, after the IC-814 hijack, one of the key questions was about the security clearance given to air operators, and which ministry would be responsible for it.
  • The NDA government decreed that the MHA would be responsible to clear air operators and that “security clearance would be required at every stage”, even at the induction of new directors to an air operators’ board.
  • On 8 March 2000, Advani received details of the reconstituted board of directors of Jet Airways. Even as the civil aviation ministry kept sending reminders, the MHA led by Advani sat on the information for months.

KP Singh’s Strange Turnaround

  • IB chief KP­ Si­ng­h suddenly turned around on the matter, saying his agency had cleared Jet Airways bec­ause “nothing specifically adv­erse was available at that time either against the airlines or its directors on the records of the IB and the R&AW”. He didn’t mention the IB’s own intercepts of talk between the Dawood gang and Goyal.
  • Soon after, the home ministry decided to forego its authority to issue security clearance and instead passed it on to the civil aviation ministry. Jet Airways seems to be one of the only cases where the home ministry gave up this right.

Run-ins With Dawood Over the Years

Over the years, Dawood has come up with elaborate ways of keeping in touch with the Indian elite and businessmen.

  • A Union minister in Manmohan Singh’s government, had reportedly been exchanging notes with him through a resident of south Delhi, who was also suspected to be a bookie manipulating cricket games.
  • The bookie had been negotiating Dawood’s return to India through the minister, found several int­ercepts by R&AW over the years. Dawood was allegedly willing to spend a few years in an Indian jail if he was all­owed to return.
  • Dawood also reportedly sent messages to a Mumbai-based Muslim preacher, who in turn passed on the information to a prominent political leader from UP.

End of NDA Rule in 2004

Goyal “had friends in all the right places,” despite the end of the NDA rule in 2004.

  • One of the key regional parties in the the UPA, was Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Cong­ress Party (NCP), which reportedly insisted on the civil aviation portfolio.
  • Praful Patel, a flamboyant businessman known to be a key aide of Pawar’s, became the civil aviation minister.

Jet Airways Flies Abroad

  • As the governments changed, India had yet not permitted its private airlines to fly abroad. Jet Airways however began applying for slots at the London, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok airports.
  • When the matter came up in Parliament, (Praful) Patel did not mention that a committee appointed by the previous government had submitted a detailed structure for expansion and modernisation of the aviation sector, which proposed permission of private airlines to fly abroad.
  • After a Jet Airways employee was arrested in London for allegedly being linked to bids to blow up transatlantic flights with liquid bombs, queries about the airline’s links to dubious outfits emerged in Singapore and the UK.
  • New Delhi however insisted that Jet Airways posed no security concerns. A reaction which some within the government felt was a bit too enthusiastic.

(Publisher: HarperCollins, Pages: 256)

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