The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Tata Trusts’ managing trustee and AirAsia India’s director R. Venkataramanan for questioning on July 3 in the AirAsia India corruption case. The CBI in its first information report (FIR) has named Venkataramanan for allegedly flouting aviation norms for getting international flying licences.

“We had summoned other senior management officials of AirAsia India last month and have now asked Mr Venkataramanan to come for questioning,” said a CBI official requesting anonymity.

The CBI in its FIR has alleged that Venkataramanan was “involved in lobbying with stakeholders in the Government of India to secure mandatory approvals, some of them through non-transparent means, including the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, NOC (no objection certificate) and the attempt for removal/modification of 5/20 rule”.

Under the 5/20 rule, an Indian carrier had to have at least five years of domestic operations and a fleet of 20 aircraft in order to open international operations. However, this rule was amended partially when the ministry of civil aviation removed the ‘five year’ clause.

It must be noted that Venkataramanan owns 1.5% stake in the airline and is a nominee of Tata Sons on the Board of AirAsia India.

Earlier last month, Venkataramanan had issued a statement denying all allegations. He said that the accusation made by the CBI has its roots in the “baseless allegations made by Mr Cyrus P. Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against Tata Trusts Trustees (me included) and Tata Sons in his revenge legal actions".

“In my capacity as non-executive director of AirAsia India, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play," he had said earlier.

In the wake of media reports that the CBI raided the premises of Tata Trusts and seized documents of AirAsia India from Venkataramanan’s office, Tata Trusts issued a statement, declaring full support for him. "The office of Mr R. Venkataramanan, in his capacity as a non-executive director and a nominee of Tata Sons on the Board of AirAsia India Limited, on the Trust office premises, was visited by the authorities and clarifications sought on some papers relating to Air Asia India, some of which were taken by the authorities," it said in a statement.

An email sent to AirAsia India remained unanswered at the time the story was published.

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