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CBI summons AirAsia CEO to join probe by June 6

By Deepika

The CBI has summoned AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes to appear before it by June 6 to face queries relating to alleged bribery to get FDI rules tweaked.

Image for representation only

The investigating agency registered a corruption case against AirAsia Group chief operating officer Tony Fernandes, aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar and others for alleged violation of norms in getting licences for international operations.

The CBI also carried out searches at five places in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

The investigative agency said officials related to AirAsia 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 first information report (FIR) filed by the CBI said that after lobbying by AirAsia 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 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.

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.

The FIR names Tony Fernandes, AirAsia India Director R Venkataraman, 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.

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