Enforcement Directorate grills Naresh Goyal over diversion of Jet funds

Naresh Goyal, founder, Jet Airways
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday questioned Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal for alleged diversion of funds to shell companies and irregularities in aircraft lease transactions under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

The action was part of a separate investigation launched a month back against Goyal and his associates, who helped in facilitating and executing illicit transactions overseas in alleged violation of foreign investment rules, said an ED official. 

The enforcement agency is probing Goyal’s offshore investments which were made through diversion of funds from Jet Airways to 19 shell companies allegedly managed by him.

Apart from shell companies, the federal agency has come across several aircraft lease transactions from Ireland where the amount of lease paid was substantially higher than what is paid in the aviation industry. 

During the search operation, the agency seized documents and digital records along with emails. ED had last month conducted search operation at Goyal’s 12 business and residential premises. “We have sought some papers from him (Goyal) and asked him to be present again next week,"said an official. 

The role of Hasmukh Deepchand Gardi and his substantial investment in Tail Winds Corporation is also under lens. 

Gardi, Goyal’s business partner, was named in Panama Paper global leaks for allegedly holding fraudulent companies. 

Goyal incorporated Tail Winds on the Isle of Man in 1992, one year before he founded Jet Airways. It was alleged that Tail Winds was controlling the financial activities of cash strapped Jet Airways since 1993.  

There’s another case against Jet and Goyal for alleged violation of foreign exchange regulations during the signing of a $150-million (over Rs 900 crore) deal with its strategic partner Etihad Airways in 2014 for a loyalty programme business.

In 2014, Etihad had picked up a 50.1 per cent stake in Jet’s frequent flyer programme - Jet Privilege - with the balance going to Jet.

The Income-Tax department and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) too, are probing cases related to Jet Airways and Goyal.

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