The Ministry of Civil Aviation has stayed an order passed by its own security unit denying clearance to an aviation services firm promoted by Prasad Minesh Lad, a Maharashtra BJP MLC, for its alleged involvement in tax evasion and human trafficking.
In its April 4 order, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) alleged that Krystal Aviation Services Pvt Ltd, promoted by Lad and his wife, created “ghost employees” in the payrolls of associate firms to “evade taxes”. It cited a security report that accused the group’s companies of sending people “to Dubai for jobs”.
Following an appeal by Lad on April 9, the ministry on April 18 stayed the order and remanded the case back to BCAS, directing it to give a personal hearing to the firm, obtain a detailed report from central security agencies and pass a final order in two months.
Civil Aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey did not respond to an emailed questionnaire, phone calls and text messages from The Indian Express seeking comment on the ministry’s order signed by Satish Chander, under-secretary. Emails and phone calls to the director-general of BCAS did not elicit any response.
When contacted, Lad described the charges as “baseless and rubbish”. However, the BCAS order, examined by The Indian Express, states that they are based on the findings of a background check conducted by a “central security agency”.
“The Agency in its report dated 09/02/2018 mentioned that Krystal Aviation Services Pvt Ltd recruited people and sent them to Dubai for jobs in activities related to security, housekeeping and maintenance. Inputs indicated apprehensions that in connection with the activities mentioned above, the documents being collected from job seekers are being misused by the company particularly to create ghost employees in the payroll of associates to evade taxes and the group is also involved in human trafficking,” said the BCAS order, signed by Kundan Pandey, Assistant Director (Policy).
The order said that the report of the central agency is “seriously adverse in nature” and “cannot be seen as allegations levelled against the entity”. “It is rather an assessment report of a central government agency having expertise in the security domain based on inputs it collates and its assessment and perception cannot be interfered with unless established to be bad,” said the order.
Krystal Aviation Services provides ground handling services to firms across five international airports in India and was granted security clearance by BCAS from 2010 to 2015.
“Till date there is not a single complaint or FIR against any of my companies. We have filed an appeal and now the BCAS order has been stayed by the ministry. They (BCAS) have not shown us a single complaint against my firms,” Lad told The Indian Express.
Krystal Aviation is part of Krystal Group, which has interests in integrated facility management services such as manpower recruitment, housekeeping, catering and security services, among others.
According to the website of Krystal Group, it was recently awarded a project from the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission to provide training, skill development and placement programmes to rural youth under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana scheme.
Declarations submitted by Lad in his 2015 affidavit for elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Council show his total assets at Rs 101 crore. Lad and his wife hold 72.73 per cent stake in Krystal Aviation as on March 2017. The remaining 27.27 per cent is held by Kolkata-registered First Choice Comotrade Pvt Ltd.
According to records, in the financial year 2017, Krystal Aviation Services made a profit of Rs 30.91 lakh, down 33 per cent from a year ago. The firm’s total revenues stood at Rs 43.37 crore in fiscal 2017.
Apart from Kyrstal Aviation, Lad has interest in six companies: Krystal Integrated Services Pvt Ltd, Krystal Techno-Engineering Services Pvt Ltd, Krystal Family Holdings Pvt Ltd, Ayushmati Infra Tech Pvt Ltd and Shoubham Cine Vision Pvt Ltd. He is also a director of Krystal Gourmet Pvt Ltd, Flame Facilities Pvt Ltd and Singapore-based Krystal Global Pte. Ltd.