By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s federal investigators have summoned AirAsia Group chief Tony Fernandes to question him over allegations his airline broke rules while obtaining a flying licence in the country, a police source told Reuters on Friday.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this week named Fernandes, the airline and others in a complaint, alleging they lobbied government officials “to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through non-transparent means”.
Fernandes could not immediately be reached by phone or email for comment. AirAsia India, earlier this week, rejected any allegations of wrongdoing and said it was co-operating with all regulators and agencies “to present the correct facts”.
A CBI source said Fernandes had been called for questioning in the case on June 6, adding that others would also be called as part of the investigation.
The CBI filed a complaint, the first stage of an investigation in India, on Tuesday, accusing the airline, some of its employees and third parties of violating India’s foreign direct investment rules while obtaining the licence, and of bribing government officials in an attempt to get regulations relaxed to allow AirAsia India to fly international routes.
Fernandes has not directly commented on the allegations, but a day after the complaint was made he criticized the media on Twitter for reporting without fact-checking. “Seriously wild stuff which are just plain wrong and inaccurate,” he said.
The Indian investigation comes as a fresh blow to Fernandes, AirAsia’s embattled leader, who has been under fire for supporting Malaysia’s former prime minister in last month’s general election and is being investigated over the cancellation of flights meant to transport voters home.
The Malaysian low-cost carrier launched domestic flight operations in India in 2014 with local joint venture partner Tata Sons.
AirAsia has been planning to add new jets to its Indian fleet to expand in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.
(Additional reporting and writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Alex Richardson)