Photo © Andrew Hunt
According to a confidential report submitted by Indian Intelligence agencies to the Govt., India's largest privately held airline Jet Airways has financial ties with the Indian Mafia as well as Mafia Dons, who have been declared as terrorists by the Indian Govt. The Mafia dons named include Dawood Ibrahim, the don responsible for blowing up Bombay on behalf of some neighbouing countries. Dawood has now been given protection by the military regime in Neighbouring Pakistan, and remains one of the most wanted men in India. Jet is also said to have sourced funds from another mafia don, Chota Shakeel, who is also in hiding.
Due to this report, 9W may end up losing its security clearance, thus grounding the airline which is sometimes called the Singapore Airlines of South Asia. A final decision on jet Airways security clearance will be taken after the Civil Aviation Minister Hussain returns from the BJP's annual sabha (convention) at Goa.
9W is not the only airline accused of having links with the underworld. The first private airline to become succesful, the now defunct East West Airlines, was also accused of being funded by the Mafia. Once the Govt. found out, it throttled the flow of funds to/from the mafia. The owner Mr.Thakiyudeen Wahid, was then hounded by the mafia and later shot dead in a sensational shoot out in the heart of Bombay. East West, which had grown to a 18 737, 6 F27 operation by then folded up soon after that.
While there has always been speculation about the financing of Jet Airways, the latest report clears many of the doubts people had about how a *mere* Travel Agent from Delhi could come with the Hundreds of Crores of Rupees needed to run an airline like Jet Airways, which owns most of the 37 Boeing 737NGs it operates.
The owner of Jet Airways, Mr.Naresh Goyal, has had a career graph that should warm the hearts of most members on this forum. Starting out as a Travel Agent in the days when the state owned Indian Airlines (IC) and Vayudoot ruled the domestic skies, he soon built up a network of 80 odd travel agencies across India (most of them one-room shops).
When India embarked on the open-skies policy and the domestic skies were thrown open to private enterprise, he was one of the first to jump into the fray. He also showed more enterprise than other players like East West and Damania. While all private players without a single exception, went in for the cheaper 737-200's, 9W was the only carrier to choose the newer generation 737-300 and -400 series aircraft, despite the fact that its lease costs were twice that of the -200's. But the newer aircraft did a lot to build 9W's reputation as the best carrier in this part of the world. 9W was also the first private airline to buy its own aircraft, when it started replacing leased 737-400's with owned 737-800's/700's.
But for the last 10 years that Jet Airways has been flying, there have persistent doubts about the exact source of his funds. Naresh Goyal himself has been tight lipped about the whole affair sayng it is *personal* funds. But how a middle-class travel agent could get so much money has always troubled the media people. The ONLY thing known publicly, is that 9W is owned 100% by a company called Tailwinds Intl. which is registered in a British owned tax-haven called Isle-of-Mann.
Whenever 9W needed extra infusions of cash, Mr.Goyal has always managed to pump in the reqd. money. For eg. when the Govt. barred foreign investment in Domestic carriers, Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways which owned 20% each of Jet Airways, sold off their stake to Mr.Goyal, who managed to find the cash to buy of this stake. The purchase of around 10 737-800's was funded partly by a loan guaranteed by the US-Exim bank, but some of the extra cash was brought in by Mr.Goyal.
But Mr.Goyal apart from being an astute businessman, was also a master manager of politicians. Politicians from many political parties were known to be friendly to him which meant that rules were often bent to suit 9W. This explains why the state-owned carriers like AI and IC, and other private players werent allowed to expand their fleets but 9W managed to grow from a 3-aircraft airline to a 42 aircraft operation.
The problem for 9W, is that the current Aviation Minister, Mr.Hussain is known to keep away from *political managers*, so this could mean trouble for the airline and its owners.
While action must be taken against people who do business with the media, its sad to see that this could result in the grounding of what was clearly one of the best airlines in Asia.
Photo © Sunil Gupta
Photo © Propfreak