AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes and his recently appointed deputy group CEO (operations) Bo Lingam have been summoned for questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 6, sources told FE.
AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes and his recently appointed deputy group CEO (operations) Bo Lingam have been summoned for questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 6, sources told FE. The CBI on Tuesday registered a case against Fernandes, AirAsia India non-executive director R Venkataramanan and other officials for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get permission to fly on international routes. A total of 14 people, including some former and current employees of AirAsia, have been named in the charge sheet. This includes the airlines’ former CEO Mittu Chandilya, his secretary, and the current and the former CFO of the airline, Deepak Mahendra and Vijay Gopalan.
In response to FE’s query on summons to Fernandes, AirAsia India said, “We are not taking any queries in this regard.” Sources said that a CBI team was at AirAsia’s Bengaluru office till late Tuesday night and seized several files regarding the criminal conspiracy to manipulate certain government policies to suit the company’s plans. It is alleged that AirAsia along with lobbyist Deepak Talwar (also named in the charge sheet) lobbied to get the 5/20 (an airline earlier got permission to fly on international routes only after having completed five years of operation and having 20 aircraft in its fleet) rule changed so that it could begin international operations right away.
The other allegation of wrongdoing is that the airline violated the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board guidelines and foreign direct investment norms by allowing operational control of the airline to be with the Malaysian parent when it was required that control be vested with the Indian partner. On Wednesday, in a statement Venkataramanan denied the allegations levelled on him.
AirAsia is majority-owned by the Tata Group and Venkataramanan has around 1.5% shareholding in the joint venture. Venkataramanan is also the managing trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and is responsible for management and oversight of all Tata trusts. The CBI has alleged that Venkataramanan was lobbying in the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through non-transparent means.
“In my capacity as non-executive director of AirAsia India Limited, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play,” Venkataramanan said in his statement. “It is commonly known that the present accusations qua AirAsia India find their root in baseless allegations made by Cyrus P Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against Tata Trusts Trustees (me included) and Tata Sons in his ‘revenge’ legal actions,” he added. He also said that the 5/20 rule has been a matter of debate of the aviation industry as a whole and AirAsia was one of the many airlines that had formally sought its review. AirAsia also on Wednesday denied all allegations levelled against it.