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Sunday 5 July 2020

Jet Airways resolution: ‘No country could have done it as fast’

But the ED continues to grill Jet Airways' former Chairman Naresh Goyal for money-laundering, implying the cases of corruption are not settled yet even though that of the airline's bankruptcy is

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Delhi today she was very impressed when National Companies Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) Chairman Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya told her that India today probably takes least possible time in resolving issues such as the collapse of Jet Airways. “I am so happy that we could reach this situation with a robust law,” the finance minister said.

“Jet Airways is a case where cross-border resolutions are happening and we have to be conscious that time-bound decision making is important,” Sitharaman said.

The State Bank of India (SBI)-led consortium of lending banks had in June 2019 abandoned its efforts to re-establish the private sector Jet Airways (India) Ltd. The group of banks decided to send the case to the NCLAT for action under the bankruptcy code to resolve the debt trap in which the airline finds itself. Banks have to recover Rs 8,000 crore from the airline.

Jet Airways was once the largest private airline in the country. Naresh Goyal, then a ticketing agent, had started this airline as an entrepreneur — 25 years ago.

Meanwhile, even as the state is assured that Jet Airways’ bankruptcy is a settled issue, the cases of corruption continue against Goyal. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) questioned former Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal on Thursday for seven hours. The ED scanned his UAE bank account transactions — to dig out more information, if available, on suspicious transactions. The agency summoned a senior bank official from the UAE-based bank and questioned him as well in connection with the transactions. ED contacted the bank official, who is an Indian national. Responding to the summons, sources said, he appeared before ED officials.

Goyal was a customer of the leading UAE-based bank, which has a presence in other countries too.

ED expedited the probe against Goyal after registering a fresh case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against him.

Anita Goyal, wife of Naresh Goyal, and his legal counsel accompanied him to the ED office yesterday. The agency questioned Anita as well.

A day before, the ED officials had grilled Naresh Goyal for more than 9 h. Then they took him to his residence on Altamount Road in southern Mumbai. ED officials searched the house till 5:30 AM. They recorded his statement in connection with what looked like dubious transactions.

Yesterday, the ED began grilling Goyal and his wife Anita at around 3:30 PM and went on till 10:30 PM.

Today, the ED may summon Goyal again for another round of interrogation. The bank official from the UAE will confront him with facts if he makes unsubstantiated claims, said a source.

ED suspects that Rs 2,000-3,000 crore from the loan amount of Rs 9,000 crore, which Jet Airways had borrowed over a decade ago, is stashed abroad.

On orders of a metropolitan magistrate last Tuesday complaint against Goyal and his wife under various sections of the IPC, Mumbai Police had registered a cheating case against Goyal and Anita for allegedly defrauding a travel company in the city to the tune of Rs 46 crore.

Complainant Rajendran Neruparambil, the chief finance officer at Akbar Travels of India Private Limited in Mumbai, had approached the authority with his complaint.

Since August 2019, the ED has been probing diversion of funds from loans borrowed by Jet Airways. The agency carried out raids at 12 locations across Mumbai and Delhi.

The allegations against Goyal include violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). Goyal, his wife and other alleged accomplices misused loans borrowed from various banks and diverted it to foreign countries through ghost companies, goes the complaint.

The ED has recorded Goyal’s statement at his Delhi house. It raided the premises of Hasmukh Gardi, a close aide of Goyal, too.

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