The government has ordered an SFIO probe into the affairs of the now defunct Jet Airways after finding instances of fund diversion and large-scale irregularities, sources said on Thursday.
Besides, the government would oppose airline founder Naresh Goyal’s plea in the Delhi High Court seeking lifting of his travel ban. The sources said Goyal is likely to be summoned by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), which comes under the Corporate Affairs Ministry.
The crisis-struck Jet Airways had on April 17 announced to temporarily suspend all flight operations after the request for critical interim funding for maintaining bare minimum operations was refused by the lenders.
Jet Airways pilots had appealed to the State Bank of India (SBI) to release Rs 1,500 crore for cash-strapped airline’s survival and also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help save 20,000 jobs at stake. But their plea remained unheard.
Cash-starved Jet Airways, which has around 23,000 employees, has delayed payment of salaries to the employees, including pilots.
According to the sources, the ministry’s inspection report had found large-scale irregularities, including diversion of funds.
The cash-strapped company became the first domestic airliner to go into bankruptcy after the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admitted an insolvency petition filed by SBI on behalf of 26 lenders on June 20.
NCLT has begun the liquidation process of the airlines which takes 90 days. The debt owned by the airline is around Rs 25,000 crore. Of this, Rs 600 to Rs 700 crore is the salary arrears of the employees. Of the airline’s 27 lenders, SBI is the biggest.
The employees are hopeful that NCLT will bring some relief to the employees in terms of salary. But the employees are ready to go without salary till the company turns around and each of the employees earn a dividend in the profit share. But that is still a long way to go.
The union hopes that air turbine fuel (ATF) comes under GST during this Budget. This will bring down the liabilities of the airlines by a large portion.
(With PTI inputs)