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ED summons senior AirAsia functionaries

Case relates to violation of FDI norms, bribery

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned senior functionaries of AirAsia, including its chief executive officer Anthony Tony Fernandes, for recording their statements in connection with a money laundering case, said a senior agency official on Thursday.

The ED had earlier registered the case on the basis of an FIR lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation in April 2018. Mr. Fernandes, AirAsia India Limited (AAIL) and its director R. Venkataramanan, AirAsia Berhad (Malaysia) and others were accused of violating FDI norms and paying bribes in an attempt to get an international operations licence.

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) were also named.

Bid to get approval

It was alleged that unknown officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) conspired with Mr. Fernandes and others to expedite the approval process and amend the aviation policies.

The AirAsia group also allegedly violated the FIPB norms in handing over the effective management control to a foreign entity by making AAIL a de-facto subsidiary, instead of a joint venture.

AAIL had earlier refuted the allegations, stating that it was cooperating with all the regulators and agencies to present correct facts. “In November 2016, AAIL initiated criminal charges against its ex-CEO and also commenced civil proceedings in Bengaluru for such irregularities,” it had said.

As alleged by the CBI, Mr. Venkataramanan lobbied with stakeholders in the Central government to secure necessary approvals. The controllers of AAIL allegedly pressured its then CEO Mrithyunjay Chandilya to ensure the desired changes in regulatory policies.

The agency alleged that attempts were made in the Civil Aviation Ministry to remove or amend the 5/20 rule ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, it could not be done as the polls were announced and the airlines did not get a licence for international operations. Under the 5/20 rule, which has now been replaced by 0/20 rule, a licence for international operations could be given to only those airlines with five years of domestic flying experience and a fleet of at least 20 aircraft.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:52:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ed-summons-senior-airasia-functionaries/article30580146.ece

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