Monday, October 26, 2020

India: Jet Airways founder Goyal booked for money laundering

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) reportedly raided the residence of Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal in Mumbai late on Wednesday evening.

Goyal and few others have been booked by the ED in a money laundering case even as the agency is conducting searches at his premises, officials said on Thursday.

They said a criminal case against the former chairman of the airlines has been registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of a recent Mumbai Police FIR filed against him, reported PTI.

The ED conducted raids at Goyal’s premises in Mumbai on Wednesday evening and also questioned him after filing a case, they said. The action is continuing, they added.

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Last month, the Mumbai police reportedly registered a case against Goyal and his wife Anita for allegedly cheating a Mumbai-based travel firm, Akbar Travels, to the tune of Rs 46 crore, said a report in India Today.

The police registered the case on orders of a metropolitan magistrate complaint against Goyal and his wife under various sections of the IPC, the report said.

Last year, the ED had registered an offence against Goyal and his wife in connection with FEMA (Foreign Exchange Manipulation Act) violations. The agency had also interrogated the couple on several occasions on the alleged FEMA violation case.

In September last year, the ED had questioned Goyal for over eight hours in the case of an alleged contravention of the foreign exchange law.

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This was the first time that the central agency was grilling him after it conducted searches against him last year.

Goyal’s statement had been recorded under FEMA at the agency’s zonal office in Mumbai.

It suspected that expenses at these companies were allegedly booked at fake and high costs and as a result, they “projected” huge losses.

In August 2019, the ED had searched a dozen premises, including Goyal’s Mumbai residence, his group companies, their directors and offices of Jet Airways.

According to the agency, the businessman’s empire had 19 privately-held companies, five of which were registered abroad.

In March last year, Goyal had stepped down as chairman of the airline due to acute liquidity crunch.

In May 2019, Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal were stopped from leaving India at Mumbai airport. They were denied permission to travel abroad by the immigration authority, who realised that there was a ‘lookout’ notification for Goyal.

The couple was to travel by Dubai-bound Emirates flight EK 507 when the immigration authority denied them permission to fly.

The checked-in baggage, which was in the name of Anita Goyal, was also offloaded from the flight.

In April last year, Jet Airways officers and staff association president Kiran Pawaskar had written to the Mumbai police commissioner that the passports of Goyal and other directors and senior members of the Jet Airways management be impounded as the airline had not paid salaries to its employees for several months.

Currently, Jet Airways is undergoing resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and at least three entities have put in initial bids for the carrier.

In December last year, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) had approved the extension of Jet Airways, which had suspended its operations in April last year, insolvency resolution period by 90 days.

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The Committee of Creditors (CoC) sought extension of corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) of Jet Airways from the Mumbai bench of the NCLT in view of South America’s Synergy Group wanting more time for due diligence and two new interests being shown for the grounded airline.

The airline owes over Rs 8,500 crore to a consortium of 26 banks led by State Bank, and over Rs 13,000 crore to the tens of hundreds of vendors and around 23,000-odd employees.

Lenders to the grounded airline, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), are seeking investors in Jet to recover their dues. The airline’s total liability, including unpaid salaries and vendor dues, is nearly Rs 15,000 crore.

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