Naresh Goyal
Naresh Goyal

Mumbai: There appears to be more trouble in store for the founder and former head of Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal. While probing a case of alleged forex violation by the founder of the now-grounded carrier, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sleuths are learnt to have come across instances of money laundering and diversion of funds.

In this connection, the investigating agency on Friday carried out searches across 12 locations in Mumbai and Delhi, belonging to Goyal and a former stakeholder in the airlines, Hasmukh Gardi. Goyal’s statement was also recorded by the ED during the day.

Gardi, who initially owned a substantial share in the airlines, now lives in Dubai. His premises in South Mumbai, being looked after by his son-in-law, were searched. It is worth mentioning here that Gardi’s name had appeared in the Panama Papers.

Top sources in the ED disclosed that Jet Airways had secured Rs 9,000 crore in loans for the company, of which 25-30 per cent is suspected to have been misappropriated in the form of overseas payments and remittances to commission agents. A contentious transaction pertains to the payments made to a company in Ireland which had leased out planes to Jet Airways.

It is suspected that inflated amounts were paid in the form of rentals to the leasing company, allegedly for diversion of funds, which could invite action under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Sources said that Goyal purportedly held 19 private companies, including five registered abroad. It is alleged that his companies executed several transactions under the guise of selling, distribution and other operating expenses.

It is further alleged that Jet Airways had executed shady aircraft lease transactions with ghost offshore entities and has made payments towards lease rentals to ghost companies, which in turn diverted the money to his personal funds, ED sources said.

Gardi, it is alleged, had invested a huge amount in Tail Winds Corporation, a company floated by Goyal in 1992, which controls the financial activities of Jet Airways, launched the followingyear. The Panama Papers had red-flagged Gardi’s investment in Tail Winds, stating it was raised through illegal activities.

“Goyal’s role is being probed in furthering those transactions,” a senior ED official said, requesting anonymity. In May, the ED had launched a probe into Etihad’s investment in Jet Privilege Private Limited (JPPL).

In 2014, Etihad had invested Rs 900 crore in JPPL, which was suspected to be a violation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms, as the former had picked up a 50.1 per cent stake in the company through the deal.

A separate investigation was also initiated to ascertain Goyal’s suspected investment in foreign airlines. Jet Airways, which was grounded earlier this year, is also being probed by various other agencies, including the Income Tax (IT) department and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO). Goyal had resigned from the board of Jet Airways in March.

In May, Goyal and his wife were stopped from travelling abroad by the immigration department at Mumbai Airport, as a look-out circular had been issued against him.

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