Dragnet closes in on Hasmukh Gardi (IANS Exclusive)
Tail Winds is something that Naresh Goyal, founder-promoter of the now defunct Jet Airways, hasn't been able to shake off. It is a stigma that he has fought for many years, but Tail Winds is back to haunt him.
A new name has cropped up in this all encompassing investigation which even prevented Naresh Goyal from flying out of India with the recall of his taxying aircraft from the runway due to a look out circular against his name.
Hasmukh Gardi, another promoter of Jet Airways in its earliest avatar, is under the scanner of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) on suspicion that he had colluded with his erstwhile partner Naresh Goyal to siphon off funds. Investigative agencies have asked for an extradition notice to be posted against his name. He is in Dubai currently.
Gardi and Goyal were the Indian directors of Tail Winds, a company incorporated in Isle of Man through which Goyal controlled Jet Airways. In 2013, Goyal transferred the shares of the airline from Tailwinds to himself. Gardi remains a partner with Goyal's global sales agent (GSA) business. Gardi is now a resident of Dubai and is reportedly not co-operating with the SFIO probe.
The agency has already sent many summons to him for questioning. Agencies are also reportedly in touch with the Embassy in Dubai to bring this to culmination. In August, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had searched over a dozen premises linked to the Jet Airways and that of its erstwhile promoters Goyal and Gardi in Mumbai and Delhi in a case of foreign exchange violation.
ED reportedly detected foreign bank accounts linked to former Jet Airways chairman Goyal with huge amounts of money in them. The ED had said: "The search resulted in the seizure of various incriminating documents and digital evidences."
The needle of suspicion against Goyal being that he is the alleged beneficial owner of some foreign bank accounts with huge deposits. It is believed that these transactions involve numerous violations under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
ED's overarching probe under FEMA is based on complaints and inputs received from various sources. The business empire of Goyal includes 19 privately held companies of which 14 are registered in India and 5 are registered abroad.
The agency based its claims on the fact that, "Naresh Goyal also indirectly controls various entities abroad, some of which are in tax havens. Preliminary investigations so far indicate that Naresh Goyal has structured various tax evading schemes involving its domestic companies and the companies in foreign tax jurisdiction, thereby siphoning off huge amount in foreign jurisdictions through dubious and fictitious transactions."
According to ED, these fictitious and inflated payments appear to have been made to some of these foreign entities under various airline lease agreements, aircraft maintenance agreements, etc. "Huge amounts appear to have been sent abroad by way of inflated commission to its own group entity in Dubai which acted as the airline's exclusive overseas General Sales Agent (GSA)," the ED said.
The agency is analysing the seized documents to find more about the foreign and domestic assets linked to Goyal. Jet Airways secured loans worth Rs 9,000 crore, of which 20-30 per cent of the money was sent overseas through inflated invoices.
The ED suspects misappropriation in the transactions that Jet carried out with an Ireland-based company from where planes were leased. The ED found that Jet Airways paid a higher commission to their agents, and in most of the cases, the commissions were paid to these companies were non-existent. Yet another modus operandi, expenditures were inflated, and the money was sent overseas.
The ED is also investigating the investments that were carried out by Tail Winds. In 1992, before starting Jet Airways, Tail Winds Corporation operated from the Isle of Man, which is a known tax haven. Hasmukh Gardi also invested in Tail Winds Corporation in 1992, and became a shareholder of Jet Airways as well. Gardi, who was named in Panama Papers, is also suspected of having links to the underworld.IANS