AirAsia's R Venkataramanan says 'wrongly named' in corruption probe; alleges smear campaign by Cyrus Mistry against Tata Sons
Venkataramanan says motivated allegations are part of a smear campaign run to discredit him and the work being done by the Tata Trusts.
New Delhi: AirAsia India's non-executive director R Venkataramanan on Wednesday said allegations of wrongdoing against him are baseless and that he has been wrongly named as an accused, a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against the airline and its officials for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies to secure an international licence.
The budget carrier is majority-owned by the Tatas and Venkataramanan has around a 1.5 percent shareholding in the joint venture with AirAsia Berhad.
"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," Venkataramanan said in a statement.
The CBI has registered a case against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Venkataramanan and other officials for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get an international licence.
"It is commonly known that the present accusations qua Air Asia India find their root in baseless allegations made by Cyrus P Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against Tata Trusts Trustees (me included) and Tata Sons in his 'revenge' legal actions," the statement said.
Venkataramanan is also the managing trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and is responsible for management and oversight of all the Tata Trusts, as per Tata Trusts' website.
Emphasising that all allegations of wrongdoing or illegality against him are baseless, Venkataramanan said these motivated allegations are part of a smear campaign run to discredit him and the work being done by the Tata Trusts, which contribute Rs 1,200 crore each year to philanthropic activities.
"Despite, Cyrus Mistry and his company's efforts to discredit the Trusts, we resolve to enhance the quality of life of our people," he noted.
The CBI has alleged that Venkataramanan was lobbying in the government to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through "non-transparent means", including the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, a no-objection certificate and the attempt for removal or modification of the 5/20 civil aviation rule.
Referring to emails purportedly written by him in the context of the 5/20 norm, Venkataramanan said that the rule has been a much-debated policy matter and that "Air Asia India was one of the many airlines that had formally sought a review of this policy".
The 5/20 norm -- would grant international licenses to airlines with five years' of domestic operations and a minimum of 20 aircraft in their fleet -- was done away in 2016. Now, only the fleet requirement of 20 aircraft is in force, making it easier for new players such as AirAsia India and Vistara to commence international flights.
Sooraj Pancholi was booked for alleged abetment to suicide in the case and is now out on bail.
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