The CBI Friday summoned R Venkataramanan, non-executive director of AirAsia India Ltd and managing trustee of Tata Trusts, to appear on July 3 at its headquarters in New Delhi in connection with a probe into alleged irregularities and corruption related to the airline obtaining international flying licences, sources told The Indian Express.
Sources familiar with the case said the CBI examined Deepak Mahendra, chief financial officer of the airlines, in New Delhi on June 28.
Earlier this month, the agency also examined Sunil Kapur, chairman of Total Food Services, and corporate lobbyist Rajendra Dubey in connection with the case, sources said. The CBI has also recorded the statements of a few witnesses in the case that was registered in New Delhi on May 28.
Kapur, along with corporate lobbyists Deepak Talwar and Rajendra Dubey, has been accused of allegedly liaisoning with government officials. The CBI had also summoned group CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, for questioning.
According to the CBI FIR filed in May, the allegations include bribing government officials to gain quicker international licences, lobbying to scrap the 5/20 rule for domestic carriers to operate international flights, controlling AirAsia India’s operations indirectly through the
brand licensing agreement in violation of foreign investment norms, and entering into sham contracts to facilitate bribes.
The 5/20 norm, which requires local airlines to be in operation for at least five years and operate a minimum fleet of 20 planes to start overseas operations, was done away with in 2016.
AirAsia India is a joint venture between Tatas, which holds 51 per cent, and Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad.
The CBI has alleged that Venkataramanan lobbied with the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through “non-transparent means”. Venkataramanan has denied the allegations, saying he was wrongly named as an accused as he had “little or no role to play” as a non-executive director.
On June 26, the Tata Sons board expressed its support for Venkataramanan. Earlier this month, Tata Trusts had also come out in support of Venkataramanan.
So far, the CBI has raided six AirAsia India offices, including its headquarters in Bengaluru.