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Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes Fails to Appear for CBI Summons

The ED, too, has registered a criminal case of money-laundering against Air Asia officials.

Updated
Business
3 min read
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Air Asia group CEO Tony Fernandes did not appear before the The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday, 6 June. ANI reports that the CBI will summon him again.

The CBI had earlier summoned Fernandes for questioning on 6 June for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international licence for its Indian venture Air Asia India Limited.

The CBI, in its criminal FIR registered two days back, had booked Fernandes, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam also known as Bo Lingam, former Deputy Group CEO of Malaysia-based Air Asia Berhad, and R Venkataramanan, Director Air Asia India Ltd, Bengaluru, besides companies Air Asia India Pvt Ltd and Air Asia Berhad.

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The agency had alleged that Venkataramanan was lobbying in the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through “non-transparent means”, including the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, No Objection Certificate and the attempt for removal or modification of 5/20 rule.

It is alleged that to be eligible for international operations, the company was required to have five years of experience and fleet of 20 aircraft as per the 5/20 rule.

The company is yet to get international flying permit as it currently has only 18 aircraft, they said. Fernandes wanted it to fly internationally from the day of getting flying permit granted in May, 2014, it alleged.

He and his local Indian partner Tata Sons through their nominee Venkatramanan would lobby in government to get all approvals including FIPB clearance and amend or removal of existing 5/20 rule for international operations, the FIR has alleged.

The CBI case has been registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and sections 13(2) read with 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

ED Registers Money Laundering Case

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), too, registered a criminal case of money-laundering against Air Asia officials and others on Thursday, 31 May in the case.

The central probe agency, they said, has pressed sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to probe if alleged tainted funds were used to create illegal assets and it has taken cognisance of the CBI FIR to lodge its own case. They added that the accused in its FIR, known as the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), are same as those in the complaint of the CBI.

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The agency, they said, will go into the money trail of the accused and the entire deal and a joint probe by the two agencies is expected to henceforth go forward in the case.

The agency’s office in Mumbai has been probing a separate case against the airline and its executives under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

This probe in the case, registered last year, was initiated on the basis of the claims of ousted Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry’s allegation that fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore, involving non-existent entities in India and Singapore, were carried out in an instance involving the airline.

Cyrus Mistry Hits Out

On Thursday, Mistry hit out at “shameful” case of top executives of AirAsia being booked for allegedly paying bribes to influence policy, saying there was a decline in governance standards at the group’s airline venture.

Mistry slammed AirAsia director R Venkataramanan, who has along with chief executive Tony Fernandes been named by the CBI in the FIR, for using his name to cloak his alleged misadventures, and said individuals with "questionable motives" are bringing disrepute to the Tata brand.

Air Asia had denied any wrongdoing after the CBI filed the case and carried out raids at multiple premises.

It is alleged that Air Asia India Ltd – a joint venture between Tata sons and Malaysian company Air Asia Berhad – was indirectly controlled and operated by the Malaysia group and particularly Air Asia, Berhad violating various existing norms of erstwhile Foreign Investment Promotion Board, now defunct.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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