The CBI has asked Malaysia-based AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes to appear before it by June 6 to face queries relating to alleged bribery to get FDI rules tweaked.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged that bribe was paid to obtain a licence to operate international flights by the joint venture of AirAsia India Ltd (AAIL) with Tata Sons Ltd.
A CBI sources told IANS that Fernandes had been asked, through email, to come and record his statement before the investigators at the agency’s headquarters in Delhi.
In the criminal case filed by the agency on Monday, some “unknown public servants” of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), along with R. Venkataramanan, Director, AirAsia India, and T. Kanagalingam alias Bo Lingam, Deputy CEO, AirAsia Group have been named.
“We are planning to issues separate notices to other accused persons named in the FIR after scrutinising all the documents,” a CBI official said, requesting anonymity. AirAsia and Venkataramanan have denied the charges, saying the accusations were made with mala fide intention and will be defended in court.
Fernandes, sources said, needed to be questioned regarding the FIPB approval obtained by the company for investing in India. The CBI his alleged that efforts were made by him to get the 5/20 rule of civil aviation policy changed so that AirAsia could start international operations. The rule requires that an airline must be operating in India for five years and have at least 20 aircraft in its fleet before starting international operations.
The CBI FIR alleges that in December 2014, Sunil Kapoor, who runs an in-flight catering company, along with Bo Lingam, handed over a packet containing Rs 50 lakh to facilitate the removal of the 5/20 rule. It was not clear who the money was given to.
Fernandes is also accused of “putting pressure” on former AirAsia India CEO Mittu Chandilya to pursue changes in regulatory policies for international aviation in India which would be beneficial to the company.
Venkataramanan has said the accusations against him were an off-shoot of the allegations made by former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against the trustees of Tata Trusts. Mistry, in turn, has denied the allegations.
Venkataramanan is the managing trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and is responsible for the management and oversight of all the Tata Trusts.
AirAsia India has also denied allegations concerning indirect foreign control of AAIL allegedly in violation of FIPB, saying the matter had been “fully investigated by the Director General of Civil Aviation and the company had given a clean chit in November 2017”.