MUMBAI, MAY 26: Immigration authorities in Mumbai on Saturday stopped former Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita from flying out of the country, deepening concerns about the fate of the debt-laden airline which halted services on April 17.
The couple was headed to Dubai via an Emirates flight, EK 507, which was scheduled to depart at 3.35 p.m.
Reports say Goyal was stopped from leaving the country on the basis of a lookout circular put out by the authorities. But reports also suggested that the couple had boarded and the plane had “pushed back” before it was brought back to the terminal and they were asked to disembark.
PTI reported that the checked-in baggage, which was in the name of Anita Goyal, was also offloaded from the flight. It is learnt that the Goyals were taking a connecting flight to London.
In a late evening statement, Emirates said it was cooperating with the “relevant authorities”.
Naresh Goyal and his wife had recently resigned from the board of Jet Airways, which he founded 26 years ago, as lenders tried to put together a viable debt restructuring plan. Goyal had also resigned as the airline’s Chairman.
The move by the immigration authorities comes after the Ministry of Corporate Affairs directed the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) earlier this month to launch an enquiry into the charges that the Jet founder had siphoned out over Rs 5,000 crore from the airline through a skein of transactions involving its subsidiaries.
The SFIO probe against Jet Airways was initiated just a day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had launched a separate investigation into partner Etihad’s investment in the airline’s frequent flyer programme, Jet Privilege. The ED is trying to ascertain whether FDI norms were violated by Etihad when it picked up a 50.1% stake in 2014 in Jet Privilege Private Ltd, which operated the airline’s loyalty programme.
Last month, Kiran Pawaskar, president of Jet Airways officers and staff association, had written to the Mumbai Police Commissioner that the passports of Goyal and other directors of the Jet Airways management be impounded as the airline had not paid salaries to its employees for several months.
The airline has been struggling to repay debts worth over Rs 8,000 crore and owes money to lessors, suppliers, pilots and oil companies. Lenders of the now-grounded airline have taken up a controlling stake and are in the process of selling it to recover their dues.
The action by the immigration authorities will complicate efforts to find investors to rescue the airline that Goyal launched in May 1993 with support from Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways which together held a 40% stake.
Last week, hopes of a bailout came unstuck after reports suggested that the Hindujas – late entrants in a bidding process initiated by the lenders – had failed to reach an agreement with Etihad on the contours of a consortium that could manage the floundering airline.
Goyal’s troubles erupted in May last year after an online news portal had alleged he had siphoned out Rs 5,279 crore from the airline through several related party deals. The airline later received a Sebi notice asking it to clarify its position. Jet vehemently denied the allegation. (Courtesy: TT)