Naresh Goyal
Jet Airways founder chairman Naresh Goyal may be slapped money laundering charges, according to media reports.Credit: Reuters

The founder-chairman of now-defunct Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal, is in for more trouble with the Enforcement Directorate (ED), hot on the trail of alleged money laundering offences, according to reports.

The ED investigation gained significance in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's anti-corruption campaign that is extending to corporate boardrooms.

The investigation agency recently searched 10 properties belonging to Goyal and his associates. The high-flying businessman and his spouse are currently facing an exit ban against leaving the country.

This is the first time the ED, which has been probing the airline that stopped flying in April under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), is questioning the airline founder, according to The Economic Times.

Last week, besides Goyal's, the ED searched the premises of Hasmukh Gardi, who allegedly invested in Goyal's Isle of Man-based Tail Winds Corporation, that controls the financial activities of Jet Airways, the report quoted ED sources as saying.

"Gardi's name was also revealed in Panama papers for holding fraudulent companies, (and) the source of the money invested in Tail Winds was from illegal activities. He now stays in Dubai," said an ED official.

The ED is also probing the possibility of any violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) over alleged suspicious transactions found on Jet Airways books.

The Jet Privilege Pvt Ltd (JPPL), the company that runs the airline's loyalty programme, is also being probed for alleged tax evasion involving more than Rs 650 crore. "The searches follow the recent meeting ED officials had with the tax department," the ED report says, quoting anonymous sources.

Jet Airways
Jet Airways aircraft are seen parked at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, April 13, 2019. The airline stopped all flights on April 17. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File Photo

The tax authorities are also inquiring into the lease agreements of Jet Airways for alleged misappropriation in the transactions between Jet Airways and an Ireland-based company. Several transactions of Goyal's company done in the guise of selling and distribution expenses are under scrutiny.

"Jet Airways executed shady aircraft lease transactions with ghost offshore entities and has made payments toward lease rents to ghost companies, which in turn diverted the said monies to personal accounts," the report says.

Senior executives of the airline were questioned by the ED in May over the $150-million (over Rs 900 crore) deal with the airline's strategic partner Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways in the JPPL.

Jet Airways incorporated JPPL as a wholly-owned unit in 2012. However, in 2014 after Etihad bought a 50.1 percent stake it was hived off as an independent entity. Etihad now has a 50.1 percent stake in JPPL against the 49.9 percent that Jet Airways holds.

Goyal and his airline are facing probe by multiple agencies including the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the Income Tax Department.