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Last Updated : Jun 14, 2018 10:11 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Air Asia India probe: Tata Trusts backs managing trustee R Venkataramanan

Tata Trusts iterated that under Venkataramanan's leadership, it has done "outstanding work across India", both now and in the past

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Tata Trusts on Thursday came out in support of its managing trustee R Venkataramanan, who is under investigation by the CBI for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get an international licence for AirAsia India.

A combined meeting of the trustees of Tata Trusts was held on Thursday afternoon, and all of them "reaffirmed their complete trust and continued support to Venkataramanan".

In a statement issued to news publications, Tata Trusts iterated that under Venkataramanan's leadership, it has done "outstanding work across India", both now and in the past.

Tata Trusts also said that its trustees expressed concern over "inaccurate and mischievous reports" that gave a false impression of its offices being raided by investigating authorities, something that it said "did not take place".

"Tata Trusts has nothing to do with the ongoing investigation and this has been maintained from day one. The case pertains to Air Asia and Venkat being a nominee of Tata Sons. The fact that the trustees have reaffirmed their faith in Venkat as the Managing Trustee of Tata Trusts, speaks volumes of the good work Venkat has done over the years and of the unblemished reputation he enjoys in the society," said Zulfiquar Memon, Managing Partner, MZM Legal, which is representing Venkataraman in the Air Asia matter.

Venkataramanan's office at Tata's premises was "visited" by the authorities, who sought clarifications on some papers pertaining to Air Asia India, and took some of them, Tata Trusts said.

"The trustees categorically reiterated that the reported investigations have nothing whatsoever to do with the affairs of any of the Tata Trusts and noted that papers and documents relating to the Trusts were neither seen nor called for by the investigators," the statement read.

Tata Sons holds 49 percent in Air Asia India.

Last month, the CBI had registered a case against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Venkataramanan and other officials for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international licence.

The investigating agency has alleged that Venkataramanan was lobbying in the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through "non-transparent means", including the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, no-objection certificate and the attempt for removal or modification of 5/20 rule.

The norm -- which required local airlines to be in operation for at least five years and a minimum fleet of 20 planes in order to start overseas operations -- was done away with in 2016. Now, only the fleet requirement of 20 aircraft is in force, making it easier for new players such as AirAsia India and Vistara to commence international flights.

Venkataramanan had, however, denied the allegations,m saying he was wrongly named as an accused in case as he had "little or no role to play" as a non-executive director at the airline. He also blamed "revenge legal action" by former Tata Group chief Cyrus Mistry for the accusations.

"In my capacity as non-executive director of Air Asia India Limited, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play," he had said in a statement.

(With inputs from PTI)
First Published on Jun 14, 2018 09:54 pm
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