India

Air Asia CEO booked for paying bribe

 File photo: A woman walks past the Air Asia logo at its sales centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 17, 2015.

File photo: A woman walks past the Air Asia logo at its sales centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 17, 2015.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked Malaysia-based Air Asia Group CEO Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes, Air Asia India Limited (AAIL) and its director R. Venkataramanan, Air Asia Berhad (Malaysia) and others for alleged violation of FDI norms and payment of bribes in an attempt to get an international-operations licence.

“Searches are under way at five places in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru,” said a CBI official. 

The agency alleges that unknown officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) conspired with Mr. Fernandes and others to help AAIL expedite the approval process and bring desirable changes in aviation policies. 

Unknown public servants were allegedly bribed.

The Air Asia Group also allegedly violated FIPB norms in giving effective management control to a foreign entity by making AAIL a de facto subsidiary indirectly, rather than a joint venture, according to the CBI.

However, AAIL on Tuesday refuted any wrongdoing and said it was cooperating with all the regulators and agencies to present correct facts.

Among those arraigned are Tharumalingam Kanalingam of AirAsia Berhad; Rajendra Dubey, director of Singapore-based HNR Trading Pte Limited, and the company; Total Food Services (Mumbai) chairman Sunil Kapur; Deepak Talwar, aviation consultant and principal-founder of DTA Consulting (Delhi).

It is alleged that Mr. Venkataramanan was involved in lobbying with stakeholders in the Central government to secure mandatory approvals. 

The controllers of AAIL allegedly pressured their then CEO Mrithyunjay Chandilya into pursuing the objective of ensuring desired changes in the regulatory policies.

The official said an effort was made in the Civil Aviation Ministry to remove or amend the 5/20 rule ahead of the 2014 elections. 

“However, they could not do so then and did not get a licence for international operation,” he said. 

The airline got permit for only domestic operations in May 2014, for which they had applied in 2013. 

According to the FIR, a secret note had been sent to the Cabinet on February 27, 2014, to amend/remove the rule. 

A supplementary note as clarification was sent on March 5, 2014. 

However, the proposal could not be approved as the Election Commission announced Lok Sabha elections the same day.

 


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Printable version | Sep 27, 2022 6:52:01 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cbi-books-air-asia-ceo-tony-fernandes/article24023760.ece