Naresh Goyal (Image: Reuters)
Naresh Goyal, the former promoter of the now-defunct Jet Airways, might be facing investigations from several central and state agencies, but the high-flying businessman remains scot-free for now.
Weighed down by a debt burden of around Rs 8,400 crore, the carrier had to suspend operations in mid-April 2019 after it ran out of funds to remain afloat.
The cash-strapped Jet Airways grappled with fund misappropriation and legal problems before it went defunct. In August 2018, the western regional director of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had initiated a preliminary enquiry against the airline and its promoters over suspicions that the promoters siphoned off funds. On the basis of this probe report, the ministry on July 4, 2019, asked Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to initiate a detailed enquiry.
On the same day, Goyal moved the Delhi High Court for allowing him to travel to London for official work, as in the previous month, he was detained at the Mumbai international airport while trying to leave the country.
SFIO is yet to file a charge sheet in this case though they have recorded Goyal’s statements several times. A source told Moneycontrol: "In the next 2-3 months’ time, the department may file the final report against Jet Airways and its promoters."
Last year, the Income Tax (IT) Department also summoned Goyal for questioning in an alleged tax invasion case. According to reports, the department has found alleged irregularities in transactions between Jet Airways and its Dubai-based group firms to evade taxes worth Rs 650 crore. Though Goyal was summoned for interrogation, he did not appear.
"Nobody is there in the company to answer our queries now. Insolvency professionals have limited access to past transactions and records. The IT department is facing difficulty to conclude this probe since several companies are based outside India. Without specific information from these companies overseas, it will be difficult to complete the probe on time,” an official source told Moneycontrol.
The Enforcement Directorate also has two cases against the bankrupt airline and its promoters.
The ED, which registered a case against Goyal over Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations and submitted the first Enforcement Case Information Report, later filed a fresh money laundering case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The fresh case is based on an FIR which the Mumbai Police filed earlier on charges of cheating Akbar Travels. The Mumbai-based travel firm has sued Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal for cheating it to the tune of Rs 46 crore.
On August 23, 2019, they conducted searches at 12 locations and Goyal’s statements were taken more than a dozen times.
In fact, the directorate was waiting to register a case under the PMLA. For this, there should be a predicate offence, which was lacking, until the Abkar Travels’ writ petition. However, this case will be transferred to Mumbai Economic Offence Wing.
Jet Airways is also named in the large defaulters’ list of Yes Bank. The ED summoned Goyal last month, but he skipped hearing citing health conditions of his sister and panic due to COVID -19.
Since the government agencies including the ED and Income-Tax Department are expected to be fully functional from April 20, there will be some development in the case in the coming days.