Indian police investigate AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes

Mr Tony Fernandes is said to have lobbied Indian officials for favourable treatment regarding licences for his low-cost carrier.
Mr Tony Fernandes is said to have lobbied Indian officials for favourable treatment regarding licences for his low-cost carrier.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • India's federal police yesterday raided the local offices of budget carrier AirAsia as investigators accused the airline's boss Tony Fernandes of illegally obtaining licences.

The Central Bureau of Investigation said it was probing claims that Mr Fernandes lobbied Indian officials for favourable treatment regarding licences for his carrier.

"We have filed a case against Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes, his colleagues and government officers over procuring licences illegally," CBI official R. K. Gaur said.

Officers had raided AirAsia offices in major Indian cities as part of its investigation, he added.

Mr Fernandes was accused by investigators of campaigning to have aviation regulations relaxed in his favour, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

One of these was the so-called 5/20 rule stipulating that companies must have five years of domestic experience and a fleet of 20 aircraft before being eligible to operate abroad.

Besides Mr Fernandes, investigators also named an AirAsia director, an aviation consultant and unidentified Indian government officials in its preliminary case, PTI reported.

AirAsia and its local joint venture partner Tata Sons launched domestic flights in India in 2014 by offering eye-catching promotional fares to lure budget travellers.

Mr Fernandes, a millionaire ex-music executive, has styled himself as Asia's answer to British tycoon Richard Branson.

The company ran into trouble this month when Air Asia India's CEO Amar Abrol stepped down, citing personal reasons.

The no-frills airline operates flights from its bases in Bengaluru and Delhi to several cities including Goa, Jaipur and Kochi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Indian police investigate AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes'. Print Edition | Subscribe