The Enforcement Directorate questioned Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal on Friday in connection with alleged violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, PTI reported.
The probe agency had in August conducted searches at Goyal’s properties in Mumbai and Delhi in connection with the case. It had then alleged that Goyal had structured a number of tax evading schemes, and that investigations indicated that he was the likely owner of some bank accounts abroad having huge deposits.
The ED is looking into charges that Goyal’s companies allegedly carried out doubtful transactions under the guise of selling, distributing and operating expenses. Goyal’s statement was recorded on Friday at the agency’s Mumbai office, unidentified officials said.
This is the first time that the agency is questioning him in the case.
After the searches in August, the Enforcement Directorate had said that it resulted in the seizure of various incriminating documents and digital evidence. The agency said preliminary probe “indicates that Goyal structured various tax evading schemes involving its domestic and foreign companies, thereby siphoning off huge amount in foreign jurisdictions through dubious or fictitious transactions”.
It said Goyal “indirectly” controlled various entities abroad, some of which are in tax haven nations and he was “likely to be” the beneficial owner of some bank accounts abroad having huge amounts.
“Fictitious and inflated payments appear to have been made to some of these foreign entities under various airline lease agreements, aircraft maintenance agreements, among others,” the statement had said. “Huge amounts appear to have been sent abroad by way of inflated commission to its own group entity in Dubai which acted as airline’s exclusive overseas general sales agent,” the ED alleged.
“Prima facie these transactions involve various violations under the Foreign Exchange Management Act,” the statement added.
The ED had said the business empire of Goyal included 19 privately-held companies, of which 14 companies are registered in India and five companies are registered outside the country.
The charge of undisclosed assets abroad could reportedly lead the agency to charge Goyal under anti-money laundering law in the coming days.
The directorate has started a preliminary investigation into the alleged Foreign Direct Investment violations when airline company Etihad acquired stakes in Jet Privilege Private Limited in 2014.
In June, Jet Airways (India) Ltd was referred to the National Company Law Tribunal for bankruptcy proceedings. The decision was taken after the company’s lenders were unable to find a suitable investor and received only a conditional bid. Jet first defaulted on loan repayment in January. Since then, negotiations were on between the banks, Goyal, and the company’s strategic partner Etihad Airways to invest in the airline.
Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal resigned from the airline’s board of directors in March. On April 17, the carrier decided to temporarily suspend all domestic and international operations. The decision was taken after its lenders declined to provide emergency funds.
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