New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate has gone cracking on the low-cost carrier Air Asia. Almost the entire senior management (current and past) have been summoned for questioning under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Though a Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) case was registered last year itself after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered an FIR, the top management of Air Asia has been recently summoned for questioning.
The founder of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, has to appear before the ED sleuths on January 20. The group president of Air Asia, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam, also known as Bo Lingam, has even asked to meet ED officials.
Businessman Arun Bhatia, who was earlier holding substantial equity in the low cost carrier, has been summoned on January 23.
Air Asia India Chairman S Ramadorai, who is supposed to be one of the most-trusted men of Ratan Tata, will also face the ED heat and has to appear for questioning on January 27.
Senior officials, who occupied key positions at Air Asia in the past, have also been summoned for questioning. These include Naresh Algan and former CEO Mittu Chandiliya.
There are allegations that senior officials of Air Asia entered into a criminal conspiracy with the previous Congress-led UPA government to change rules for getting overseas flying rights. The Manmohan Singh dispensation had enforced a clause of having five years of domestic flying experience and a minimum of 20 aircrafts for flying into international routes.
The initiation for removal of this clause was done during the UPA tenure and was given a final go-ahead by the present BJP-led NDA government. The final permission could not be given during the UPA tenure as the process for the 2014 general elections had started and the Election Commission did not allow the government to take any policy decision.
The policy was finally inked when Ashok Gajapathi Raju became the aviation minister. Raju was the aviation minister in the NDA government when Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was a part of the NDA government.
Sources in the Enforcement Directorate said officials are probing certain transactions which were made to a Singapore firm which allegedly did not provide any services. The CBI FIR had earlier alleged that transaction with the Singapore-based HNR trading was a sham one and the money was used to pay bribes to senior government officials.
The ED is also probing a transaction with an alleged ghost firm in India which did not have any government filings.
The company is yet to issue any response to the developments. The copy will be updated once there is any official statement from the official spokespersons.
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