Naresh Goyal, the founder chairman of now-defunct Jet Airways, is facing investigation for several alleged financial irregularities. His links with Dubai-based Hasmukh Gardi, who has alleged underworld connections, could, however, prove most expensive of all his relationships, media reports suggest.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Gardi, a non-resident Indian based in Dubai, and has asked him to join the probe, a report on the Economic Times website says. Along with the properties of Goyal, the agency had searched the premises of Gardi, who allegedly invested in Goyal's Isle of Man-based Tail Winds Corporation, that controlled all financial activities of Jet Airways. "He (Gardi) played a key role in the case and, therefore, his questioning is necessary to connect the dots," the report said quoting an unidentified official.
While probing the alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations by Jet Airways and its group companies, the ED came across cases of foreign exchange law violations by Gardi's relatives, the report said. It has summoned them in these cases, said the officials while clarifying that the probe is separate from that against Jet Airways.
Gardi is reportedly a shareholder of British Virgin Islands-based entity Hanbury Global Limited, which, according to information on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has links with Mossack Fonseca & Co (UK) Ltd, that finds a mention in the Panama Papers revelations. "A considerable amount of funds have been parked in tax havens. Gardi's accounts in BVI are among them," the official said.
Meanwhile, reports say the probe against Goyal has revealed that the grounded carrier, which flew last on April 17 after struggling under a mountain of debt, entered into illegal agreements with related offshore parties based in tax havens at rates way above market prices. This caused huge losses to the airline as well as the national exchequer. ED has details of the offshore entities with which Jet Airways and its group companies entered into lease and maintenance and general sales agent (GSA) agreements, sources say. For this, ED got assistance from Toronto-based Egmont Group – an international network of 164 financial intelligence units formed for the purpose of combating money laundering and terror financing.
Goyal and his wife, Anita, were questioned earlier this month on the basis of information shared by the Egmont Group, of which India is a member, the report says citing people in the know. They said the couple was questioned in connection with alleged violations of the foreign exchange law in an equity deal with Jet Privilege Private Ltd (JPPL), which operated the airline's loyalty and rewards program.