The ED conducted searches at a dozen premises of Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal and his firms on Friday in connection with a case of alleged contravention of the foreign exchange law. They said the searches in Delhi and Mumbai were carried out under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and were aimed at gathering additional evidence. A dozen premises, including Goyal's Mumbai residence, his group companies, their directors and offices of Jet Airways, were searched. The businessman's empire, they said, had 19 privately-held companies, five of which were registered abroad.
The agency is probing charges that these firms allegedly carried out "doubtful" transactions under the guise of selling, distribution and operating expenses. It suspects that expenses at these companies were allegedly booked at fake and high costs and as a result, they "projected" huge losses. Alleged shady aircraft lease transactions with non-existent offshore entities are also under the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scanner. It is also suspected that Jet Airways made payments for lease rental to "ghost firms", which purportedly routed the ill-gotten money in Goyal's companies.
A particular company under the ED scanner is the Isle of Man-based Tail Winds Corporation and it is suspected that it controlled all activities of Jet Airways. The company (Tail Winds) was formed by Goyal in 1992 and the federal agency, as part of its latest action, also searched the premises of one Hasmukh Deepchand Gardi, who was a partner and a big investor in it, the officials said. They said Gardi, who is based in Dubai, also had a mention in the global offshore holdings list, known as the "Panama Papers", and the agency suspected that the money invested in Tail Winds was sourced through illegal means. It is understood that the ED is also looking at the airline's stake in Jet Privilege Pvt Ltd (JPPL), set up in 2012.
Jet Airways has a 49.9-per cent stake in JPPL, which is part of the Etihad Group. A few executives of the now closed down airline were questioned by the ED in connection with the case in a bid to ascertain whether FEMA and RBI guidelines were followed while inking the deal and carrying out other business operations. On Thursday, Naresh Goyal was questioned by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in Mumbai in connection with allegations of financial irregularities. A full-service carrier, Jet Airways shuttered operations on April 17 after running out of cash.
A Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) inspection report had found large-scale irregularities, including diversion of funds, at the airline, sources had said in July. In March, Naresh Goyal stepped down as the chairman of Jet Airways. Currently, the airline is going through the resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The story will be updated with more details.
(With PTI inputs)