The Central Investigation Bureau (CBI) on Friday directed AirAsia India head R Ramachandran Venkataramanan to appear before it on July 3 in connection with a probe into alleged irregularities and corruption related to the airline obtaining international flying licences in the country.
Earlier this month, Sunil Kumar, a lobbyist in the case, was interrogated in the case. Kapur, along with corporate lobbyists Deepak Talwar and Rajendra Dubey, has been accused of maintaining liaisons with government officials. The agency had also summoned group CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, for questioning.
As per the CBI FIR: “AirAsia India Ltd has used several persons i.e. Mr Sunil Kapur, owner of M/S Travel Food Services and Mr Deepak Talwar from DTA at the instance of AirAsia Group Controller Mr Tony Fernandes and Mr Bo Lingam. The private persons were found involved in lobbying with the unknown officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation for M/S Air Asia.”
Till date, the CBI has raided six AirAsia India offices, including its Bengaluru headquarters. The allegations against the company include bribing unnamed government officials to gain quicker international licence and lobbying for doing away with the 5/20 rule of allowing international flights to domestic carriers, controlling AirAsia India’s operations indirectly through the brand licensing agreement (BLA) thereby violating Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) norms and entering into sham contracts to facilitate bribes.
Meanwhile, the board of directors of AirAsia Group (AAGB) rebutted all allegations levelled against the airline’s top brass, including group CEO Fernandes, deputy group CEO Bo Lingam and also AAGB and AirAsia India. AAGB holds 49 per cent in a joint venture with the Tatas, which runs the budget carrier AirAsia India.
The statement noted that under the watch of former CEO Mittu Chandilya, “funds were illegally siphoned out of the company through…unauthorised contracts”. “All contracts entered into by AirAsia India at the relevant time were under the watch of the then CEO Mittu Chandilya… AirAsia India has lodged an FIR against Mr Mittu Chandilya,” it added.