AirAsia chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, who has been named in a first information report (FIR) filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly indulging in corruption along with officials of Ministries of Finance and Aviation as well as certain UPA era politicians, is unlikely to join the probe in the near future.
Fernandes, who is presently based in Malaysia, was asked to appear before the CBI for questioning by the apex investigating agency on 6 June, but he did not comply with their request. Instead, he claimed before the Malaysian stock exchange that he had not received any summons from the CBI. This has led to speculation that certain top CBI officials are “going slow” in the probe, by not going after Fernandes with the intensity that they should, to save the bureaucrats and politicians who had played a key role in helping AirAsia CEO.
“If he is questioned, he is going to reveal the names of the politicians and bureaucrats who facilitated the whole deal, illegally. Hence, it is in their interest that Fernandes does not come to India,” said an official source in government.
According to these sources, the airline’s CEO has been advised by his “well-wishers” to stay elusive until the general elections next year and wait for a “favourable” political situation to emerge.
Responding to this newspaper’s email seeking Fernandes’ side of the story, Divya Kumar, who handles AirAsia’s public relations in India, said that “they were not in a position to participate in the story”. To queries related to whether Fernandes had received the CBI summons and, if yes, then why he was not appearing for questioning, Kumar shared the 5 June press note of the company. The release states that “neither AirAsia Group nor Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, in his personal capacity, has received any such notice as of today.”
“If and when, any such notice is received through formal and official channels, then in accordance with the sovereign laws of Malaysia, we will abide by the due process of the letter of the law,” it adds.
There was no response from CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal on the newspaper’s email, SMS and phone calls seeking the agency’s response on what it planned to do next since Fernandes, in his official communication to the Malaysian bourse, said that he had not received any communications from the CBI. An official from the Malaysian stock exchange, while replying to this newspaper’s queries on whether it was aware of the criminal charges that had been filed against Fernandes, said that they would share an appropriate response after receiving it from the concerned division.
A government source explained, “Fernandes has been advised to wait till the situation becomes favourable next year as there are chances that there may be a change in the ruling dispensation. Certain officials, who are responsible for handling the probe, too believe that the pressure on them to prosecute those named in the FIR will decrease as the case gradually becomes old, and hence are not pushing too much for Fernandes’ interrogation.”