by Elton Gomes
Tata Trusts Thursday stated that the investigations by the CBI are not, in any way, linked to its operations. It also confirmed that documents related to the firm were not sought by the CBI. The Trusts reaffirmed their complete faith in R. Venkataramanan, who is currently the managing trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and also serves on the board of all Tata Trusts.
In a media statement released on Thursday evening, all trustees acknowledged their complete trust in the managing trustee. “The trustees reaffirmed their complete trust and continued support to Mr. Venkataramanan under whose executive leadership as managing trustee, the Tata Trusts have done, and are continuing to do, outstanding work across India,” the statement said, as reported by the Economic Times.
Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, and Venkataramanan have been booked by the CBI for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies to acquire an international license for Air Asia’s Indian venture, Air Asia India Limited where Venkataramanan is a director.
The CBI had reportedly seized laptops, iphones, and computer hard drives of all the accused, including those of Venkataramanan.
Here’s what happened
On May 29, the CBI filed an FIR alleging that Air Asia India, its officials, and Air Asia Berhad were attempting to manipulate government policies in order to gain an international license for the domestic airline. Among several others, the FIR named CEO Tony Fernandes; former group CEO of Air Asia Berhad, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam; and Venkataramanan.
It was claimed that the accused allegedly bribed government officials to acquire an international flying permit for Air Asia India when the 5/20 rule was in place. The 5/20 rule makes it compulsory for airlines to have five years of experience and a 20-aircraft fleet to be eligible to fly on international routes.
On June 6, the CBI summoned Tony Fernandes in relation with the case. News agency IANS reported that through email, Fernandes had been asked to come and record his statement before investigators at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi.
As per the IANS report, a CBI official said, “We are planning to issue separate notices to other accused persons named in the FIR after scrutinising all the documents,”.
Fernandes has also been accused of “putting pressure” on former Air Asia India CEO Mittu Chandilya in order to pursue some reforms in regulatory policies for international aviation in India. These changes would help the company.
Venkataramanan is of the opinion that the accusations levelled against him are only an off-shoot of the allegations made by former Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry.
Air Asia India has also denied allegations of violating policies of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. The company has stated that the incident has been “fully investigated by the Director General of Civil Aviation and the company had given a clean chit in November 2017”.
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