Last Updated : Jun 04, 2018 11:53 AM IST | Source:

EXCLUSIVE: AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes asked ex-CEO Chandilya to hire lobbying firm

HRN Trading's director Rajendra Dubey was questioned by CBI last week as part of investigation into the alleged attempt to amend/change 5/20 aviation rule

Tarun Sharma @talktotarun

AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes had in 2015 authorised the then AirAsia India CEO Mrithyunjay Chandilya to hire Singapore based HNR Trading PTE to help the Indian carrier lobby with Indian authorities for policy amendments.

Moneycontrol has a copy of the letter Fernandes sent to Chandilya on March 31, 2015.

HNR Trading's director Rajendra Dubey was questioned by the CBI late last week for allegedly attempting to influence the 5/20 rule that governs Indian skies.

The intention was to either amend or remove the rule, which stipulated that an airline from India can only start international services once it has a fleet of 20 aircraft and has been in operations for five years.

AirAsia India was set up in 2014, as a joint venture between AirAsia Bhd and Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group. Each of the companies holds 49 per cent stake in the JV.

The CBI has also summoned Fernandes to appear on June 6 for questioning.

The agency had last week registered a case against Fernandes and others over alleged violation of norms for getting international flying license. The  CBI's FIR also mentions AirAsia India Director R Venkataraman, aviation consultant Deepak Talwar and Rajendra Dubey.

The letter

Fernandes letter to Chandiliya starts off with the AirAsia Group CEO mentioning the AirAsia India board meeting on March 21, 2015 in Hyderabad.

He says:

"Agenda  point number four of Business and Operations Update of the  company's recently completed Eleventh Meeting of the Board of Directors of AirAsia India on March 21, 2015 at Hotel Novotel at Hyderabad airport, and its particular discussion on regulatory update as part of and our further correspondence post this meeting..."

" are authorised to appoint and sign up Regulatory Agents in HNR Trading Pte... to act as an agent to assist AirAsia India's regulatory and corporate affairs liaising."

Fernandes further adds:

"As the CEO of AirAsia India Pvt Ltd, you have been delegated authorities and continued to be authorised by our Board of Directors in each of our Board meetings to do all such act, deed and things, including the terms and conditions of agreements such as this as well as authorised to execute the agreements such as the one needed for this appointment."

Moneycontrol has seen a copy containing the minutes of the Board Meeting that Fernandes mentions in the letter.

When asked about the board meet, an AirAsia India spokesperson said:

"In the March 21, 2015 Board Meeting of AirAsia India which was held in Hyderabad airport to unveil the livery of aviation icon JRD Tata on its aircrafts (and was attended by Mr. Ratan N. Tata as a special invitee), Mittu Chandiliya (the ex-CEO of AirAsia India) briefed the Board on business and operations of the company, which included revised norms and implication of route dispersal guidelines and 5/20 rule. At this meeting the Board noted that shareholder representatives should meet concerned policymakers to apprise them about the implications of the domestic flying credit (DFC) based eligibility criteria on the new entrants."

But the company claimed that the March 31 mail from Fernandes to Chandilya is fabricated.

"The subsequent email of March 31, 2015 is a fabricated email, which is evidenced by the fact that in April 2017, Mr. Tony Fernandes filed a criminal complaint in this regard," the airline said in a statement to Moneycontrol.

ED investigation

Chandilya was last year questioned by the Enforcement Directorate after ousted Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry alleged that around Rs 22 crore of transactions involving AirAsia India were fraudulent.

While Chandilya was questioned in March 2017, pressure was already building up on him.

In a November 2016 e-mail to Fernandes, Chandilya - who had stepped down from AirAsia India in February that year - raised concerns that "company sees me as a scapegoat" post allegations by Mistry. Replying to his former colleague, Fernandes says, "keep calm... keep your cool as we are."

Moneycontrol mailed Fernandes asking him about the above-mentioned letter. But he didn't respond.
First Published on Jun 4, 2018 11:50 am
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