AirAsia FEMA probe: ED summons former CEO MD Mittu Chandilya

By: | Published: March 6, 2017 9:56 PM

The Enforcement Directorate has summoned former AirAsia India CEO and MD Mittu Chandilya in connection with a FEMA probe. Officials said the agency has asked Chandilya to depose before the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case here by the middle of this month, during which his statement is expected to be recorded under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

If ED requests for some information the airline will cooperate.” Chandilya was at the helm of the airline between June 2013 and March 2016. (Reuters)

The Enforcement Directorate has summoned former AirAsia India CEO and MD Mittu Chandilya in connection with a FEMA probe. Officials said the agency has asked Chandilya to depose before the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case here by the middle of this month, during which his statement is expected to be recorded under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). They added the former AirAsia India top executive has also been asked to submit certain documents related to his personal finances and others.

When contacted, an AirAsia India spokesperson said, “In the interest of protecting the confidentiality of its employees and former employees, AirAsia India will not comment on the issue. If ED requests for some information the airline will cooperate.” Chandilya was at the helm of the airline between June 2013 and March 2016.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing ousted Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry’s allegation that fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore, involving non-existent entities in India and Singapore, were carried out in an instance involving the airline. It has also questioned AirAsia India’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ankur Khanna in December last year in connection with the case.

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The agency is also looking at a specific transaction of Rs 12 crore, out of Rs 22 crore, made to a Singapore firm as part of its investigation. ED officials said the agency is also examining the documents and findings of an in-house forensic investigation, as claimed by Mistry. In October last year, flagging “ethical concerns” in Tata Group’s joint venture with AirAsia, Mistry had claimed a forensic investigation had revealed fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore involving non-existent entities in India and Singapore.

He had alleged that due to the latter’s passion for aviation, the Tata Sons Board increased capital infusion into the aviation sector at multiple levels of the initial commitment. In a letter written to the Board members of Tata Sons a day after he was ousted on October 24, Mistry said, “Board members and trustees are also aware that in the case of AirAsia, ethical concerns have been raised with respect to certain transactions as well as overall prevailing culture within the organisation.

“A recent forensic investigation revealed fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore involving non-existent parties in India and Singapore.” Mistry went on to allege that “executive trustee Mr Venkataraman, who is on the board of AirAsia and also a shareholder in the company, considered these transactions as non-material and did not encourage further study”.

It was only at the insistence of the independent directors, one of whom immediately submitted his resignation, that the board decided to belatedly file a FIR, Mistry had said in the letter. He claimed it was Tata who had completed negotiations with AirAsia, but early in his tenure as the Chairman of Tata Sons he (Mistry) was asked to table a proposal for the JV with AirAsia at a Tata Sons board meeting.

In 2013, Tata Sons had joined hands with Malaysian carrier AirAsia and Arun Bhatia’s Telestra Tradeplace to start low cost carrier AirAsia India. The carrier had to wait for nine months before taking off.

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