The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Group CEO of Air Asia Tony Fernandes on January 20 in connection with a money laundering case. Not just Fernandes, ED has summoned Tharumalingam Kanagalingam (Group President) Air Asia and businessman Arun Bhatia, who was earlier holding substantial equity in AirAsia.
The summons also includes senior group executive S Ramadorai, Naresh Algan and Mittu Chandiliya (former AirAsia CEO). This virtually involves the entire senior management of the airline.
The ED had earlier registered a PMLA (Prevention Of Money Laundering Act) case against AirAsia after CBI filed a corruption case. CBI had filed a case in June 2018 alleging that senior management of AirAsia entered into a criminal conspiracy with the government officials in 2012 to get FIPB clearance. The existing rule to have overseas operations then was 5/20 — five years experience and 20 aircraft. The company didn't fulfill that requirement.
Consequently, a secret note was sent to the Cabinet in February 2014 to amend the rule followed by a supplementary note on 5th March 2014 but the Election Commission of India didn't approve because election dates were already announced.
It has been alleged by CBI that around Rs 12.18 crore was paid to a Singapore based shell company HNK Tradings. And a sham contract was signed with HNK.
Sources say, that ED is probing certain transactions that were made to a Singapore firm that allegedly did not provide any services. The CBI had earlier grilled Deepak Mahendra, the Chief Financial Officer of AirAsia in connection with the case. Tony Fernandes was also summoned by the CBI earlier but he did not respond to the summons sent by CBI.
According to sources, the AirAsia scandal took place in 2013-2014. The carrier was given FIPB approval in 2013. Government officials were paid a bribe of over Rs 12 crore.
The FIR by CBI was filed under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with 13 (1) d of Prevention of Corruption Act against Antony Francis Fernandes (Tony) Group Chief Executive Officer Air Asia Group (Malaysia), Tharumalingam Kanalingan (Bo Lingam) Air Asia Berhad Malaysia (sister company), Ramachandram Venkatraman (Director) Air Asia India Limited Bengaluru, Rajender Dubey M/S NHR Trading PT Limited, Singapore.
The FIR also includes Sunil Kapoor, Chairman, Total Food Services (catering for Asia Asia), Deepak Talwar, Principal and Founder - DTA Consultancy Pvt Limited, New Delhi, M/S Air Asia India Limited, M/S Air Asia Berhad (Malaysia), NHR Trading PT Limited, Singapore, other unknown private persons and unknown officials of civil aviation ministry and the then officials of FIPB (now defunct).
(Picture Credit: PTI)