CBI books AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, others for corruption

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In a major setback for the Tatas, the (CBI) has indicted top executives of Tata Sons and the company Bhd for trying to bribe government officials in order to subvert laws of the country for their venture

The agency on Tuesday named Tony Fernandes, of AirAsia, Bo Lingam, former deputy of Bhd, and R Venkataramanan, managing at in the FIR, alleging they paid money to middlemen for bribes to known public servants and others for securing air operator’s permit and for operation of international Venkatramanan, director at AirAsia India, holds 1.5 per cent in the firm. The middlemen named in the FIR are Travel Food owner Sunil Kapoor, consultant Deepak Talwar, director of Singapore-based SNR Trading Rajendra Dubey and Venkataramanan.

The FIR alleges the duo tried to bribe government officials for amending the 5/20 rule so that AirAsia could become eligible to fly international from the first day. The 5/20 rule mandates that an should have 20 aircraft and be in business for five years to become eligible to fly abroad.

AirAsia is a joint venture between the and Malaysia-based AirAsia. The rule was amended by the present government to abolish the condition of five years.

AirAsia India refuted the allegations, saying the company had itself registered a case against its first CEO for the same irregularities. “The company had initiated criminal charges against its ex-CEO and has also commenced civil proceedings in Bengaluru for such irregularities,” said Shuva Mandal, director at AirAsia India.

In 2016, Chandilya, currently CEO of and Shipping, was named in a forensic investigation by AirAsia for having paid money to Rajendra Dubey for “government work.” Chandilya has denied the allegations.

The agency has named Dubey as the liaison agent who arranged meetings of AirAsia executives with government officials. “lnformation has further revealed that a secret note was sent on February 27, 2014, to the Cabinet to amend or remove the 5/20 rule for operation of international scheduled in civil aviation," the FIR says.

The investigating agency also said the airline, in contravention of foreign direct investment laws, was being controlled from Substantial ownership norms mandate that an Indian should be effectively controlled from India.

The agency said AirAsia India was a made a de facto subsidiary of AirAsia through the Brand License Agreement. The of Civil had earlier given a clean chit to the company in relation to foreign control.