DNA Investigation: Air India JV tagged as 'shell' company by CBI
The war against black money has touched the ailing national carrier Air India. The Central Bureau of Investigation, while scrutinising a ground-handling joint venture of Air India named SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AI-SATS), has traced certain unusual business activities and has included it in a ‘Confirmed List’ of shell companies.
The Financial Intelligence Unit of the Union Ministry of Finance, a specialised unit that monitors suspicious cash transactions, has been forwarded this ‘Confirmed List’ — adding up to 16,794 entities, including AI-SATS.
Finance ministry sources told DNA that there were “four instances of cash deposits through PAN associated with AI-SATS during demonetisation”. In the set of alleged ‘confirmed’ shell companies list, 14,246 have been identified by the I-T department, 2,015 by SFIO, the CBI has named 482 (including AI-SATS) and ED 51 companies.
This list has been updated with PAN records data as on June 1, 2017.
AI-SATS is a 50:50 JV between Air India Limited and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (now known as SATS Ltd) formed in 2010, when the UPA government was in power. It provides ground-handling services across airports in Delhi, Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Banguluru. AI-SATS had been in mired in controversy since its formation over allegations that it caused huge losses to the national exchequer. Air Corporations Employees’ Union, in a letter to the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture, alleged that while SATS was supposed to invest Rs 400 crores, hardly a fraction of the amount actually came in. “We were further told that due to this alliance, latest technology and equipment of world-class shall be made available by the SATS to Air India, whereas no such technology comes to Air India. The concept of forming a joint venture company has therefore failed.”
The Union demanded scrapping of “this unviable, uneconomical, loss-making JV”.
During the UPA regime, the civil aviation ministry had come out with a new ground-handling policy under which all greenfield airports in India were to be handled by joint ventures only. Private airlines were not included in this policy.
- “We have not received any intimation of this nature from any investigating agency. Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited is a 50:50 joint venture between Air India and SATS Singapore, engaged in the business of providing ground and cargo handling services across Indian airports. AISATS conducts its business in strict compliance with all requisite State and Central government regulations”.