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Case Against Air Asia Officials Result of Cyrus Mistry’s Revenge on Tata, Says Director

The CBI has alleged that Air Asia officials colluded with unknown government officials during the UPA rule and tried to lobby with civil servants later to have the 5/20 rule on international flying licence amended.

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Updated:May 30, 2018, 7:30 PM IST
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Case Against Air Asia Officials Result of Cyrus Mistry’s Revenge on Tata, Says Director
File photo of Cyrus Mistry. (PTI)
New Delhi: Air Asia India Ltd’s non-executive director R Venkataramanan denied allegations of operational negligence on Wednesday, a day after the CBI registered a case against him and Group CEO Tony Fernandes for flouting norms to get international flying licenses.

“In my capacity as non-executive director of Air Asia India Limited, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play,” he said in a statement.

“It is commonly known that the present accusations find their root in baseless allegations made by Mr. Cyrus P Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against Tata Trusts Trustees (me included) and Tata Sons in his ‘revenge’ legal actions,” Venkataramanan added.

The CBI has alleged that Air Asia officials colluded with unknown government officials during the UPA rule and tried to lobby with civil servants later to have the 5/20 rule amended.

The 5/20 rule, which came into effect in 2004, stipulated that a carrier needs to be in operation for five years and possess 20 aircraft to become eligible to fly abroad.

“Emails purportedly written by me have been circulated in the media in the context of the issue of 5/20 in the aviation sector. This has been a much debated policy matter and Air Asia India was one of the many airlines that had formally sought a review of this policy,” he said.

The first information report (FIR) filed by the CBI said that after lobbying by Air Asia officials, a Cabinet note was floated in February 2014 to amend the 5/20 rule. The policy decision could not be approved as the model code of conduct kicked in soon after when the dates for the Lok Sabha elections were announced, according to the FIR.

The NDA government amended the rule in June 2016, removing the 5-year operation clause, though the CBI FIR does not make it clear whether it says the policy change was effected through corrupt practices.

Apart from Fernandes and Venkataraman, the CBI FIR also names aviation consultant Deepak Talwar, Rajendra Dubey (director of Singapore-based HNR Trading), and unidentified public servants.

It further talks about payments to the tune of Rs 12.28 crore that were remitted to India with an intention to bribe officials.

The CBI also alleged that the Malaysia-based Air Asia group violated FIPB and FDI norms by giving effective management control to a foreign entity, and making Air Asia India Limited a de-facto subsidiary rather than a joint venture.

AirAsia India is a joint venture between Tata Sons (49%), Air Asia Berhad (49%) and others (2%).

“These motivated allegations are part of the smear campaign run to discredit me and the work being done by the Tata Trusts, which contribute Rs 1,200 crores each year to philanthropic activities. Despite Mr Cyrus Mistry and his company’ efforts to discredit the Trusts, we resolve to enhance the quality of life of our people,” added Venkataramanan.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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