Case lodged against AirAsia India over Rs22 crore fraudulent transaction

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Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a foreign exchange violation case against AirAsia India Pvt. Ltd for alleged fraudulent transactions of Rs22 crore involving non-existent parties in India and Singapore, said two people directly familiar with the development, including an ED official.

“We have registered a case under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for certain irregularities in a transaction which involved sending funds to certain entities in India and in Singapore. Specifically, the probe is looking into a Singaporean transaction worth Rs12 crore,” said the ED official.

Officials of the airline promoted by Tata Sons have been summoned to appear before the agency to explain their side to the investigative agency, the official added.

The case has been registered on the basis of a 4 November complaint filed by member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy. In the complaint, Swamy alleged that funds to the tune of Rs22 crore were sent through hawala route as part of a bribe to set up AirAsia. A copy of the complaint has been reviewed by Mint.

In an emailed response, a spokesperson for AirAsia said the company is not aware of the developments.

“We have not received any official communication yet. If and when we do, the company will take appropriate steps,” an AirAsia spokesperson said in an emailed response.

The allegations of a fraudulent transaction by AirAsia were first levelled by ousted Tata Sons Chairman, Cyrus Misty in a letter written to the board of Tata Sons on 24 October (soon after he was ousted). Mistry had pointed to ethical concerns and fraudulent transactions worth Rs 22 crore detected by a forensic audit of AirAisa conducted by Deloitte India.

“ED will seek the forensic audit report from AirAsia,” said the second person quoted earlier in the story.

AirAsia India is a joint venture between Malaysian carrier AirAsia Bhd and Tata Sons.

Separately, Swamy has filed a complaint with Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against AirAsia alleging criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation. While, CBI officials confirmed that they have received the complaint, it is unclear whether a case has been registered.

On 27 October, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), an industry body for airlines, moved the Supreme Court challenging the grant of aviation permits to Tata Sons and Malaysia-based AirAsia.

The lawyer appearing for FIA alleged that the agreement between Tata Sons and Air Asia is fraudulent and in contravention to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules because it effectively gives control of the Indian airline to the foreign partner.