Tata Sons board today came out in support of R Venkataramanan, the nominee director at AirAsia India who is under the CBI scanner for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies. No-frills airline AirAsia India is a joint venture between Tatas, which holds 51 per cent, and Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad.
Venkataramanan, who holds stake in the carrier, are among those under the CBI lens for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international licence for AirAsia India Ltd (AAIL). “The board expressed its confidence in its nominee director on the Board of AAIL – R Venkataramanan who would continue to serve on the board of AAIL,” Tata Sons said in a statement.
The board of Tata Sons was updated on the issues concerning AAIL and particularly matters pertaining to the investigations being carried out by official agencies. In this context, Tata Sons board expressed satisfaction that AAIL was co-operating fully with agencies investigating this matter, the statement said.
“The board is aware that prior audits and forensic reports were initiated by AAIL on some of the issues being currently investigated and based on such reports there have been no findings of any wrongdoing on the part of its nominee director — R Venkataramanan,” it added. Tata Sons board is meeting in London, a spokesperson said.
“This is a good development and records Tata Sons’ faith in Venkat. As mentioned in the statement, all possible co-operation is being extended to the investigating agencies and we will continue to do the same,” Zulfiquar Memon, Managing Partner at MZM Legal who is representing Venkataraman in the Air Asia matter, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Tata Trusts had also come out in support of Venkataramanan, who is also a managing trustee. In May, the CBI had registered a case against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Venkataramanan and other officials for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international licence.
The investigating agency has alleged that Venkataramanan lobbied with the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through “non-transparent means”, including the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, no-objection certificate and the attempt for removal or modification of 5/20 rule.
The norm — which required local airlines to be in operation for at least five years and a minimum fleet of 20 planes in order to start overseas operations — was done away with in 2016. Now, only the fleet requirement of 20 aircraft is in force.
Last month, Venkataramanan had denied the allegations saying he was wrongly named as an accused in case as he had “little or no role to play” as a non-executive director at the airline.