Naresh Goyal’s ‘incessant siphoning off of funds for personal gains’ among reasons behind Jet Airways’ downfall: ED

 Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal’s “resistance” in diluting his stakes and “incessant siphoning off of funds for personal pecuniary gains” led to the downfall of the airline, the Enforcement Directorate said in its chargesheet filed before a court here in the alleged fraud of Rs 538 crore at the Canara Bank.

The ED claimed that the airline could have survived had Goyal kept aside his “ulterior motive” and allowed professionals to make quick and strategic decisions to change the operating cash flow of the company.

It alleged that Goyal blatantly siphoned off funds from the loss-making Jet Airways (India) Limited (JIL), drained it out of funds and kept on infusing money into the related entities owned by his family members, both in India and abroad.

The probe agency on Tuesday filed its chargesheet against Naresh Goyal, his wife Anita Goyal and four companies – JIL, Jetair Private Limited, Jet Enterprises Private Limited and Jet Airways LLC, Dubai – in connection with the case.

Special judge M G Deshpande, hearing cases related to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), took cognisance of the chargesheet on Wednesday.

Goyal in his statement to the ED said that the JIL was grounded as it incurred huge losses due to major factors, including high fuel prices, along with taxes in India, high landing navigation charges and airport charges and predatory pricing.

However, in its chargesheet the ED said its probe has established that reasons attributed for the downfall of JIL inter alia include the irrational decision taken by top executives in running the affairs of the airline, resistance of Goyal in diluting his stake and incessant siphoning off of funds from the JIL for personal pecuniary gains.

“Due to mounting debt to the creditors and huge wasteful expenditure, the company needed to be recapitalised. Unfortunately, in this regard even the board was seemingly powerless because this was a shareholder matter and without the proactive agreement of the largest shareholder, i.e. the promoter of JIL, this matter would not go forward,” it said.

Because of the adamant stand taken by the promoter of JIL to suit his needs, the largest shareholder chose not to dilute his share in the company until, again, the fate of the airline was sealed, it claimed.

The chargesheet further said its investigation revealed that there were few strategic investors who had shown interest to infuse equity in the airlines, namely Tata, TPG (Private Equity) as well as Etihad, but it did no materialize as it would entail dilution of the equity of Goyal, which he was not inclined to do.

The chargesheet claimed that Naresh Goyal was blatantly siphoning off funds from JIL which was already a loss-making entity for a long time.

He drained JIL out of funds and kept on infusing money into the related entities which were personally owned by his family members, both in India and abroad without any financial rationale, the charge-sheet said.

It mentioned that his family was living an “ultra-luxurious life” and receiving “obnoxious” amounts of funds from the JIL indirectly without contributing anything to the JIL.

The probe agency’s complaint claimed that Naresh Goyal has created foreign trusts and is holding expensive assets abroad and is totally non-cooperative and evasive in his conduct during its investigation.

Its probe into the role of Goyal is complete and hence this prosecution complaint is being filed. Efforts are on to trace all the proceeds of the crime earned by him and parked in multiple entities, it added.

The money laundering case stems from an FIR of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Jet Airways, Goyal, his wife Anita and some former company executives of the now grounded private airline in connection with an alleged Rs 538-crore fraud case at the Canara Bank.

The FIR was filed on the bank’s complaint which alleged that it sanctioned credit limits and loans to Jet Airways (India) Ltd to the tune of Rs 848.86 crore of which Rs 538.62 crore was outstanding.

The ED, in its chargesheet said that since this amount was obtained from different banks as loan was diverted and siphoned off in the garb of inter alia malafide professional and consultancy expenses, diversion of funds for personal expenses of the Goyal family, lending to related parties and subsequent writing off these loans etc, resulted in turning the loan accounts intoA.

The investigation revealed that the JIL under Naresh Goyal used similar modus operandi for all the consortium loans. Therefore, public money worth Rs 5716.34 crore obtained from the Consortium of Banks led by SBI and PNB is considered to be the total proceeds of crime, generated out of criminal activities relating to commission of scheduled offences by JIL and its promoters.

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On the role of his wife Anita Goyal, the ED mentioned that she is a beneficiary in several trusts of Naresh Goyal in foreign jurisdictions. She has also been associated with several related entities of JIL in India and foreign jurisdictions from which she derived remuneration/consultancy.

The ED claimed that Anita Goyal was appointed as consultant to the CEO of Jetair Pvt Ltd in March, 2015 for a yearly contract of Rs 1,15,00,000. Her contract was renewed in March 2016, with a sharp increment in her consultancy fee to Rs 2,40,00,000 per annum.

The contract kept on renewing till date. Moreover, it is noteworthy that there is no document evidencing the services rendered by Anita Goyal to Jetair. The consultancy given by Anita Goyal was based on oral commands, it said.

Until March 2023, she had collected a consultancy fee of Rs 12,20,00,000, the charge-sheet claimed.

The ED arrested Naresh Goyal on September 1 under the PMLA. He is currently in judicial custody and locked at Arthur Road jail here.

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