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India checks AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes for alleged corruption



Tony Fernandes, head of the AirAsia Group Bhd., Is being investigated by the Indian Federal Police for alleged bribes aimed at influencing local politics, an Indian official told reporters.

India's Central Bureau of Investigations has named Fernandes and others officials from AirAsia Bhd. and his Indian unit in his investigation, the official told reporters on Tuesday in New Delhi and asked not to be identified quoting rules. Fernandes and an AirAsia India spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comments.

The probe is a setback for the expansion of AirAsia, with its India unit planning more domestic flights and a January launch for international operations. Fernandes has identified India as one of the main pillars of his pan-Asian dream as he seeks to capture a share of a market dominated by golf-based airlines and the national airline Air India.

The CBI's claim that Fernandes and others bribed Indian officials through intermediaries to influence policy, including obtaining a permit to fly and international air traffic.

After more than a decade of deliberations, India 201

6 renounced a restrictive rule that only carriers with five years of domestic operations and at least 20 aircraft in their fleet granted international licenses. The new rules allow airlines to fly abroad if they use 20 aircraft or 20 percent capacity on local routes, whichever is higher. The facilities opened to the local subsidiaries of AirAsia and Singapore Airlines Ltd. to start overseas flights earlier.

AirAsia India, in the conglomerate Tata Sons Ltd. and local directors control a 51 percent stake, a tender has floated up to 40 Airbus SE A320 jets for hire. The airline has promised to eliminate its annual losses this year.

Fernandes has established subsidiaries in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Japan and Vietnam over the years to harness the world's best traffic growth in the region. AirAsia has ordered hundreds of billions of dollars of Airbus SE aircraft to meet its expansion plans and is in the process of selling an aircraft leasing unit to raise more cash.

India, the world's fastest-growing home aviation market, has been a major focus for AirAsia as an emerging middle class with sufficient disposable income flies for the first time. Fernandes has spoken about a possible IPO for the unit, which could increase the value of the parent by $ 200 million Crucial Perspective, a specialist in Asian transportation stocks, said in January.


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