Big setback for Air Asia and Tata Group
In a big setback to Air Asia and its partner Tata Group, the Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file a probe status report against Air Asia and Tata Group Directors. The Bench headed by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar ordered the agency to file it in a sealed cover and listed the matter for final disposal on September 26 in the petition filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy accusing illegalities in the Air Asia approval during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.
The High Court’s order to the CBI is a nightmare for Air Asia and Tata Group as CBI has already registered a First Information Report (FIR) in May 2018 against Malaysian firm’s owner Tony Fernandes and Tata Trusts Managing Director R Venkatraman. Another accused, controversial lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who lobbied for this illegal Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance through tainted former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and then Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. Swamy approached the High Court in 2013 accusing that this Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approval was totally illegal and against the norms in Civil Aviation Sector which only allows domestic companies.
Subramanian Swamy has urged the CBI to widen the probe on the frauds committed by the top officers of Air Asia and Tata Group in the illegal allotment of a license to operate in India by violating aspects of national security rules, foreign investment regulations, and civil aviation norms.
The BJP leader has accused several times that the kingpin in this dubious deal is Ratan Tata who covertly entered the civil aviation sector. After getting this deal, Ratan Tata re-entered the civil aviation sector through his firm Vistara.
Ratan Tata’s dubious activities in the Air Asia deal were the main bone of contention between him and Cyrus Mistry. In 2016, the dismissed Tata Son’s Chief Cyrus Mistry had accused Ratan Tata of siphoning funds illegally to Air Asia and the fund ultimately reached a US-designated terror accused person, Dubai based resident Hamid Reza Malakotipour. This was found in the forensic audit of Tata Group firms ordered by Mistry. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is already probing this money laundering angle in this deal.
Swamy approached the High Court with an interim application demanding the cancellation of the International flying license given to Air Asia. Observing that as the final arguments were listed for September 26 along with CBI’s status report, the High Court did not entertain the petition.
Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes’ man, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam, also known as Bo Lingam, former Deputy Group CEO of Malaysia-based Air Asia Berhad and companies Air Asia India Pvt Ltd and Air Asia Berhad has also been named as an accused in the CBI FIR.
Subramanian Swamy has urged the CBI to widen the probe on the frauds committed by the top officers of Air Asia and Tata Group in the illegal allotment of a license to operate in India by violating aspects of national security rules, foreign investment regulations, and civil aviation norms. Earlier in a detailed complaint of more than 300 pages to the CBI Director, Swamy produced many internal emails exposing the lobbying with Finance and Civil Aviation officials by Air Asia officers and Tata Group officers, who are already under a CBI probe. The detailed complaint and documents submitted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to CBI is published here.
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