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ED summons Air Asia executives, CEO Tony Fernandes in PMLA case

Tony Fernandes and others stand booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of criminal conspiracy under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also probing allegations of money laundering. CBI registered the FIR on May 29, 2018 following a case registered by the ED on charges of money laundering.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 16, 2020, 11.57 AM IST
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The ED case was registered after the CBI filed an FIR to probe these allegations.

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned top brass of Malaysian based AirAsia group including its chief executive officer (CEO) Tony Fernandes to join its ongoing probe on January 20.

Tony Fernandes and others stand booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of criminal conspiracy under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also probing allegations of money laundering.

CBI registered the FIR on May 29, 2018 following a case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering.

According to CBI’s first information report (FIR), “the shareholders and Indian partners at the joint venture, including the board members, were not only aware of these intentions but also consciously ensured violated the then FIPB norms.”

However, the role of officials under the current government’s tenure had also come under the CBI’s scanner. “Source information” meetings with government servants were arranged by lobbyists hired by Fernandes and kickbacks running into crores were paid, the FIR said.

In the AirAsia case, information with CBI suggests that the seeds of conspiracy to get the 5/20 rule amended were sown during second term (2009-14) of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

AirAsia was emboldened by the approvals given by the FIPB despite irregularities in its application.

As per available information, AirAsia submitted applications to the FIPB in February 2013 and received formal approval in April 2013. The 5/20 rule was relaxed in June 2016 to remove the five years of operation requirement.

According to the agency, a basic violation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms was allegedly overlooked by the FIPB.AirAsia India was indirectly controlled and operated by Malaysia-based AirAsia Group and particularly AirAsia Berhad, thereby violating the rules that mandated local control.

The said arrangement (company structure) was formalised on April 17, 2013, which indirectly made AirAsia India a “de-facto subsidiary rather than a joint venture.”

AirAsia had denied the accusations after it was booked by the agencies. In a press statement issued in 2018 it had said “AirAsia India Ltd (AAIL) refutes any wrongdoing and is cooperating with all regulators and agencies to present the correct facts”. It added: “AirAsia India Ltd (AAIL) refutes any wrongdoing and is cooperating with all regulators and agencies to present the correct facts.”

In its FIR, the CBI has also named Rajender Dubey, Director of Singapore-based HNR Trading pvt Ltd, Sunil Kapur, Chairman Total Food Services, Mumbai and Deepak Talwar, Principal and Founder DTA consulting, New Delhi and the company HNR Trading as alleged lobbyists who used their influence to get 5/20 rule relaxed before General Elections of 2014.

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