CBI questions 'lobbyist' in AirAsia case

CBI questions 'lobbyist' in AirAsia case

CBI says lobbyists were paid money which was utilised for bribing public servants to secure international flying licences. Reuters

The CBI on Monday questioned Sunil Kapur, owner of Travel Food Services, in connection with its probe into alleged lobbying by AirAsia while trying to get international flying licences by manipulating policies and in violation of foreign investment norms, officials said.

The agency has alleged that Kapur was employed by group CEO of AirAsia Tony Fernandes as a lobbying agent to whom the on-board catering contract was given by deputy CEO Bo Lingam as "quid pro quo" without any negotiation.

The sources said Kapur was called at the agency headquarters where he was questioned on various aspects of his relationship with AirAsia and meetings with its executives.

He was also asked about the meetings of civil aviation ministry officials and AirAsia executives arranged by him, sources said, but refused to give specific details as it may reveal the identity of the ministry officials under CBI scanner, thus adversely affecting the probe.

The agency officials also asked him about the role of one Sriram who had purportedly received Rs 50 lakh from Bo Lingam for diluting the 5/20 rule for international operations licences.

The CBI has alleged that in December 2014, at a coffee shop in the Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai, Kapur, along with Bo Lingam, had handed over a packet containing Rs 50 lakh in cash to Sriram to facilitate the removal of the 5/20 rule.

"An effort was allegedly made in the Ministry of Civil Aviation to remove/amend the 5/20 rule (which makes it mandatory for an airline to have five years of flying experience and 20 aircraft to be eligible for international flying licence)," CBI Spokesperson R K Gaur had said.

AirAsia India has only 18 aircraft as on date.  

The CBI has booked Fernandes, Bo Lingam, the then deputy group CEO of Malaysia-based Air Asia Berhad and R Venkataramanan, director of the AirAsia India Ltd, Bengaluru, besides alleged lobbyists Kapur, Rajender Dubey and Deepak Talwar in the case.

The agency has summoned Fernandes to appear before it in the case on Wednesday.

After the registration of the FIR, CBI spokesperson R K Gaur had said the accused promoters of the company and board of directors allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with unidentified government officials through lobbyists to expedite the approval process for AirAsia India and change aviation policies to suit the company.

He had said lobbyists were paid money which was utilised for bribing unknown public servants and others for securing permit for operation of international scheduled air transport services.