Moneycontrol
Last Updated : May 30, 2018 03:10 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Ex-AirAsia CEO paid $5 million bribe to UPA minister: Report

The CBI filed a case against top officials at AirAsia (India) and AirAsia Berhad for alleged criminal conspiracy and colluding with the UPA government to procure international flying rights in 2014.

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A former CEO of low-cost carrier AirAsia had allegedly paid $5 million as a bribe to a former UPA minister, reports suggest.

Moneycontrol couldn’t independently verify the claims made in the reports.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and other top company officials on May 29 for alleged violation of norms in getting international flying licenses.

According to a CNN-News18 report, the alleged bribe was paid to alter rule 5/20 to ensure AirAsia (India) gets overseas flying rights.

The CBI filed the case against top officials at AirAsia (India) and AirAsia Berhad for alleged criminal conspiracy and colluding with the UPA government to procure international flying rights in 2014.

The alleged conspiracy is believed to have been hatched just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The case was filed following the revelation of emails exchanged between AirAsia’s senior employees and Tata Group, Economic Times reported.

One of the emails with the CBI is from Managing Trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Venkataramanan Ramachandran, wherein he is given personal assurances from then civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, the report claimed.

The mail from Ramachandran to AirAsia executive Tharumalingam Kanagalingam -- both have been named in the CBI FIR -- reads: “Met Mr. Ajit Singh a short while ago. He said approvals should come soon and that our planning should be on the basis of the 5/20 rule getting scrapped.”

AirAsia Berhad and Tata Sons own 49 percent each in AirAsia (India), while Ramachandran holds 1.5 percent stake and former TCS CEO S Ramadorai holds 0.5 percent.

The CBI alleged in the FIR that the airline had paid bribes to a minister to ensure that rule 5/20 is amended or scrapped. The rule prohibits an airline with less than five years’ experience and 20 aircraft on international routes.

Overall, nine people have been booked by the CBI along with unnamed government officials and senior staff of the then civil aviation ministry.

However, AirAsia (India) director, Shuva Mandal, responded over the charges with the following statement, “AirAsia India Limited (AAIL) refutes any wrongdoing and is cooperating with all regulators and agencies to present the correct facts. In November 2016, AAIL had initiated criminal charges against its ex-CEO and had also commenced civil proceedings in Bengaluru for such irregularities. We hope to bring early resolution to all such issues.”
First Published on May 30, 2018 11:45 am
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