January 24, 2020

ED Summons AirAsia’s Fernandes, Venkataramanan Again

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


A fresh Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons has been issued to Tony Fernandes as well as other top executives of the Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd, besides R Venkataramanan, the former director of AirAsia India, over allegations of money laundering.

The ED has summoned Venkataramanan to appear before it on February 10.

AirAsia boss Fernandes has been summoned on February 5, while AirAsia’s former Deputy Group CEO Tharumalingam Kanagalingam, has been asked to appear on February 3, after both failed to do so on January 20.

Incidentally, Fernandes and other top AisAsia managers are being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of criminal conspiracy under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI had registered a first information report (FIR) in May 2018 after the ED filed a money laundering case.

“The shareholders and Indian partners at the joint venture, including the board members, were not only aware of these intentions but also consciously violated the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) norms,” the CBI’s FIR had stated.

The CBI is probing the roles of some bureaucrats arranged by lobbyists hired by Tony Fernandes and kickbacks running into crores of rupees, according to its FIR. The CBI’s FIR has alleged that a conspiracy was hatched to get the so-called 5/20 rule amended during the second term (2009-14) of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

The rule ensured that Indian carriers could only fly overseas only if they had been operational for five years and had 20 planes. However, the 5/20 rule was relaxed in June 2016, scrapping the five-year requirement.

The CBI FIR has also named Rajender Dubey, director of Singapore-based HNR Trading Pvt Ltd; Sunil Kapur, chairman, Total Food Services, Mumbai; Deepak Talwar, principal and founder, DTA Consulting, New Delhi; and HNR Trading as alleged lobbyists who used their influence to get the 5/20 rule relaxed before the general elections of 2014.

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