Niira Radia

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Niira Radia
Born Nira Menon
(1960-11-19) 19 November 1960 (age 57)[1]
Nairobi, Kenya[2]
Residence New Delhi, India
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, London
University of Warwick
Occupation Travel agent (1988-1994)
Aviation consultant (1995-2002)
Corporate lobbyist (2001-2011)
Organization Nayati Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.
Known for Public Relation Veteran
Spouse(s) Janak Radia
Children Akshay Radia, Karan Radia and Akash Radia
Parent(s) Iqbal Narain Menon (mother), Sudesh Sharma (father)


Niira Radia is a former Public Relations veteran, now the Chairperson of Nayati Healthcare & Research Pvt. Ltd[3], Mathura.

Early life[edit]

Niira Radia (née Nira Menon) was born on 19 November 1960 in Nairobi, Kenya into a Punjabi family.[4] She is one of three daughters of Sudesh Sharma and Iqbal Narain Menon, the other being Karuna Menon and Saira Menon. In the 1970s the family moved to London where she attended Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls followed by the University of Warwick.[5] In 1981 she married Janak Radia, a Gujarati businessman, with whom she had 3 sons - Akshay, Karan and Akash. By 1994, the Radias had divorced and she moved to India as a Person of Indian Origin. On the advice of a numerologist, she added an extra letter to her name to make it Niira.

Career[edit]

Travel agent[edit]

Between 1988 and 1993 Niira Radia incorporated a string of travel and aviation related companies in London, in which she and her family members were shareholders and held positions such as company secretary and director.[6] By 1995 these companies had been liquidated, many of them after filing bankruptcy.

Aviation consultant[edit]

In 1994 Radia's father, Iqbal Menon, met an advisor to Sahara Airlines at a party in London who mentioned that the airlines was looking to lease Boeing 737-400 aircraft to expand the business.[4] Menon, who was involved in Radia's aircraft lease business, sent Radia to New Delhi, India to meet Sahara Airlines CEO, Uttam Kumar Bose. Radia helped Sahara negotiate with International Lease Finance Corporation, a Los Angeles based company, for the lease of two Boeing 737-400 aircraft and spare parts.[4]

A Boeing 737-700 aircraft operated by Sahara Airlines at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.

In 1995 Radia rented an office in Vasant Vihar, Delhi.[4] She was hired by the Sahara Group in New Delhi, India as an aviation consultant. Acting as a liaison officer, Radia used her expertise in the areas of travel, aviation, government policies and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board to resolve Sahara Airlines' issues with the commercial department at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.[6] During these negotiations, Radia met Rao Dheeraj Singh, a traffic supervisor with Sahara Airlines, and grandson of former Haryana Chief Minister Rao Birender Singh.[7]

In March 1996 Radia persuaded Singh to quit Sahara Airlines and join her as a business partner in Mumbai. At the behest of part-owner Chandu Panjabi, Radia was to work on getting foreign hotel management companies interested in the restoration of Hotel Sea Rock, Bandra that had been damaged in the 1993 Bombay bombings.[8]

Hotel Sea Rock, Bandra as seen in 2008. It was abandoned after the 1993 Bombay bombings.

While in Mumbai, Radia also arranged funding for Agni Sakshi (1996), a Hindi film produced by Chandu Panjabi's friend, Binda Thackeray.[1] In early 1997, Radia and Singh moved back to New Delhi. Acting as aviation consultants, they traveled to Bahrain with Sahara Airlines CEO, Uttam Kumar Bose, to negotiate the purchase of helicopters from Eurocopter.

Eurocopter AS-355N operated by Air Sahara as part of its helicopter charter service.

After a successful negotiation, Sahara Airlines placed a $25 million order for four helicopters - three AS-355Ns and one AS-365N Dauphin.[9][10] The deal netted Radia and Singh a huge commission that they routed through Sofema, a company created the same year for guiding the foreign sales of large French aeronautic and defence groups.[7] To bring the money into India, Radia and Singh made several trips to London and Dubai together.[6]

Following the trip to Bahrain, Singh and his wife, Anjum, had an acrimonious divorce.[6] Radia moved from a rented flat in Safdarjung Development Area to a residential estate in Asola. She arranged for her three sons and her sister to come from London and live in India with her. Singh also moved in with her and Radia began introducing herself as Singh's wife on social occasions. She also certified herself as Singh's spouse in legal papers.[6]

After the 1998 Indian general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed a government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a year. On 19 March 1998 Ananth Kumar, representing the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka, became the Minister of Civil Aviation. Radia became emotionally close to Anantha Kumar.[7][11] Kumar introduced Radia to Swami Vishwesha Teertha, who became her spiritual guru.[12]

In July 1998 Radia incorporated Crownmart International (India) and became its CEO.[13] KLM uk hired Crownmart to handle the legal formalities involved in the return of two aircraft leased to ModiLuft by AirUK in 1996.[7]

A Boeing 737-200 aircraft operated by ModiLuft in the mid 1990s.

The aircraft had been impounded by the Central Board of Excise and Customs for non-payment of ₹8.5 crore (₹85 million) as Inland Air Travel Tax collected by ModiLuft from passengers but not remitted to the Government of India. Radia and Singh worked with prominent lawyer RK Anand who filed a case with Delhi High Court. Anand and his team of lawyers were able to persuade the court to pass an order to release the aircraft on the condition that AirUK would first deposit ₹8 crore (₹80 million) with the government and furnish a bank guarantee of ₹4.5 crore (₹45 million).[14][15] Radia's lawyers informed her that the court order could be stayed by the next morning. Radia ensured that ₹8 crore was deposited the same day and AirUK's pilots took off that same evening. Crownmart earned ₹2.5 crore (₹25 million) as fees for getting the aircraft back into the possession of KLM uk.[7]

After the sale of Eurocopter helicopters to Sahara, Sofema approached Radia and Singh suggested that they help broker the sale of helicopters to the Maharashtra and Karnataka state governments.[6] Even though it was forbidden for state governments to use middlemen and commission agents in the purchase of helicopters, Radia and Singh traveled to London to sign a contract with Sofema. Since a BJP government was in power at Maharashtra at that time, Radia asked Ananth Kumar to arrange a meeting with a senor BJP functionary in Nagpur who facilitated the deal.[7] The Maharashtra government ultimately bought an AS365 N3 Dauphin helicopter from Eurocopter in April 2001 at the cost of ₹23 crore (₹230 million).[16][17] The Karnataka government did not buy a helicopter after initially expressing interest.[16]

In 1999 Radia persuaded Ananth Kumar as Minister of Civil Aviation to block the approval for Jet Airways to acquire five new aircraft from ATR, a French-Italian aircraft manufacturer.[18] Since Naresh Goyal, the CEO of Jet Airways, refused to deal with Radia, she went to ATR who agreed to pay her ₹1.85 crore (₹18.5 million) to get the approval from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.[7] To receive their commission Radia, Singh and Karuna Menon traveled to Zurich to open Swiss bank accounts. They also opened accounts in the Channel Islands, a tax haven.[7]

In April 1999 Radia persuaded Ananth Kumar as Minister of Civil Aviation to change its policy of aircraft acquisition from Boeing to Airbus for Air India's new fleet requirements.[19] The ministry began a formal process of aircraft evaluation for the purchase of 39 aircraft at a cost of ₹9,000 crore (₹90 billion) but the evaluation of offers was stopped in August 1999 due to upcoming Lok Sabha elections.[20] When rumours began to circulate in the Indian media that India's aviation policy was being influenced by the minister's relationship with Radia, Ananth Kumar was removed from his position as Minister of Civil Aviation.[21]

In 2000 Singapore Airlines was keen to re-negotiate a more liberal air bilateral pact with the Indian civil aviation ministry in order to obtain a staggered increase in its flight frequencies over a multi-year period.[22] Singapore Airlines approached Radia who got it done.[7] Singapore Airlines was at that time also in talks with Ratan Tata over a 40% stake in Air India[23] and it put in a good word for Radia.

Airline owner[edit]

In 2000 Radia attempted to start her own airline, Crown Air, but the Ministry of Civil Aviation declined to give her permission because it failed to meet the requirements for adequate paid-up capital, ownership pattern, equity base and appointment of a chairman.[24] Radia increased the paid-up capital from just ₹1 lakh (₹1,00,000) to ₹30 crore (₹30 million); clarified that she and her sister, Karuna Menon, were the promoters; obtained approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and the Home ministry to raise equity abroad; and started negotiations with International Lease Finance Corporation to obtain aircraft.[25] However, her application was declined again for lack of transparency in funding.[4]

In August 2000 Uttam Kumar Bose was sacked as CEO of Sahara Airlines after aircraft lease rentals negotiated by him were found to be as much as 50 percent higher than market rates.[26][27] He joined Crown Air as CEO but went back to Sahara after nine months.

In 2004 Radia tried once again to start her own airline by taking over the defunct ModiLuft and renaming it Magic Air. Uttam Kumar Bose once again quit Sahara Airlines to help launch Magic Air.[28] Radia failed to get permission because of her foreign citizenship and rules forbidding foreign investment in Indian domestic aviation.[1][11][28]

PR Veteran[edit]

In 2000 Ratan Tata, fresh from the failure to obtain a stake in Air India along with Singapore Airlines, decided to consolidate the public relations and advocacy functions for the Tata Group as a whole. Impressed by her smooth handling of the Singapore Airlines bilateral pact with India, Tata offered all 90 Tata Group accounts to Radia, who set up Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt Ltd (VCCPL) in 2001 for public relations work.[1] Apart from the Tata Group Radia also handled clients such as Unitech Group, Confederation of Indian Industry, Hindustan Construction Company and the GMR Group.

From 2005 to 2009 Radia head-hunted a number of senior Indian bureaucrats.[29] In 2005 she hired Satish Kumar Narula, former Chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI), who had retired in January 2004. He joined Vaishnavi Communications as a company director.[29] Former secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ajay Dua, former secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation Akbar Jung, and former Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, V. Subramanian, also joined Vaishnavi Communications for a brief period of four months each in 2009.[30]

In 2007, Radia incorporated Noesis Strategic Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd. with former Finance Secretary CM Vasudev and former chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Pradip Baijal, as its founding members. In 2008 former TRAI member DPS Seth worked with Noesis as an advisor. Noesis' clients included Tata Teleservices, Tata Communications, Vedanta Resources, and the government of Oman.[30]

In 2008 Mukesh Ambani also decided to outsource all of Reliance Industries public relations and lobbying work to Radia, who set up Neucom Consulting just for this purpose.[1]

In 2009, Radia was implicated in the 2G spectrum case in which the previous government was accused of selling scarce radio spectrum at throwaway prices to ineligible companies. The national auditor pegged potential revenue loss at ₹176,000 crore (₹1,760 billion). In February 2012, the SC cancelled 122 2G licences.[2]

In 2010 India Today magazine named Niira Radia as the newsmaker of the year.[4]

In 2011 Radia announced her exit from corporate lobbying and closed down Vaishnavi Communications.[31]

In 2012 Radia started a consulting firm called Pegasus International Advisory.[32]

Sudesh Foundation[edit]

In 2002 Radia established a charitable trust called Sudesh Foundation in her late mother Sudesh Sharma's memory. The foundation funded the construction of a Pejavara Adokshaja muth Sri Krishna temple at Vasant Kunj,[28] an expensive area of Delhi, for which land was allocated by the government at very low prices. At a function in 2002 Pejavara Swami Vishwesha Teertha was present, along with senior BJP leader L. K. Advani who lay the foundation stone for the temple.[33] The foundation had helped scholars publish books and devotional singers get their music CDs released.[12]

Healthcare[edit]

On 20 February 2013 Radia incorporated Nayati Healthcare & Research Pvt. Ltd. as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with her sister, Karuna Menon and herself as company directors.[34] Other company directors include Dr. Rajkumar Mani, a specialist in critical care medicine; Dr. Hemant Singhal, a breast care surgeon based in London; Rajesh Dinanath Chaturvedi, a Mumbai-based chartered accountant with previous experience in the aviation industry; Satish Kumar Narula, former chairman of the Airports Authority of India chairman; and close associate Yateesh Wahaal.[35]

On 28 February 2016 Ratan Tata inaugurated Nayati Healthcare's first hospital in Mathura, a small town in Uttar Pradesh.[36] Radia stated that Nayati Healthcare would establish similar hospitals in Tier-2 and Tier-3 Indian cities.

Controversy[edit]

Kidnapping of Karan Radia[edit]

On 28 April 2003 Rao Dheeraj Singh, Radia's former business partner, was arrested by Delhi Police for allegedly kidnapping Karan Radia, Niira Radia's teenage son.[37] The police also searched Singh's office and took away all files in his possession relating to Radia’s business dealings. Singh was charged under Indian Penal Code Sections 364A, 365, 307, 120B/34. Singh spent nearly a year and a half in jail before lawyer RK Anand filed bail for him.[38] In 2011 Singh gave an interview to a media channel in which he portrayed the kidnapping charge against him as the outcome of a business rivalry between him and Radia. Karan Radia filed contempt of court charges against Singh as the case against him is still pending.[39]

Biography by RK Anand[edit]

In May 2011 Radia filed a defamation suit against lawyer RK Anand for his book titled Close Encounters of Niira Radia and described as an unauthorized "tell all" biography about Niira Radia and her activities as a corporate lobbyist. Radia demanded ₹1 crore (₹10 million) as damages, alleging that Anand had revealed "privileged communications" between a lawyer and a client.[40]

Delhi High Court stayed the release and circulation of the book, originally slated for a launch in June 2011.[41]

Taped conversations[edit]

Over a six-month period in 2009 India's Income Tax department taped Radia's phone conversations at the time of cabinet formation after general elections. A news magazine published transcripts of the taped conversations that implicated Radia's influence in how key ministerial portfolios were allocated. These phone recordings led to the 2G spectrum case involving former telecommunications minister A Raja, which subsequently led to his resignation from his post. A report filed by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in April 2013 based on its investigation into the tapes pointed out technical violations by Radia's public relations and lobbying firm Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Limited under the Companies Act, 1956 and recommended action against 11 top executives of the firm.[42]

Panama Papers[edit]

Mossack Fonseca had set up firm linked to Niira Radia.[43] An investigation of these papers shows the existence of one offshore entity owned by Radia, an International Business Company (IBC) registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by Mossack Fonseka in 1994 named Crownmart International Group Limited. It was before she changed her name, evidently on the advice of her astrologers, and added another "i" to it. But Mossack Fonseca (MF) documents, investigated by The Indian Express, show her name simply as Nira Radia and establish that the PR professional whose telephone intercepts became public in 2010 managed an offshore account. [44]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Shantanu Guha Ray (4 Dec 2010). "Her Sinister Ring Tone". Tehelka magazine. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Who is Niira Radia?". NDTV. 15 December 2010. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  3. ^ "Home Page - Nayati Medicity". Nayati Medicity. Retrieved 2017-11-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kaveree Bamzai; Damayanti Datta; Bhavna Vij-Aurora (24 December 2010). "Newsmaker 2010: Niira Radia: The Destroyer". India Today. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  5. ^ "Who is Niira Radia?". Hindustan Times. 15 Dec 2010. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f VK Shashikumar; Tejas Patel (11 May 2011). "An inside look at the life and loves of Niira Radia". FirstPost. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ashish Khetan (24 December 2010). "Niira and I went to Zurich to open bank accounts: Rao Dheeraj Singh". India Today. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  8. ^ "Hotel Sea Rock's saga: Sapped the Luthria family that owned it". Economic Times. 2 Apr 2014. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  9. ^ "History of Sahara Airlines". World History. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  10. ^ "Air Sahara Limited History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Sunit Arora (6 December 2010). "Niira, Of Two Eyes". Outlook Magazine. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Ganesh Prabhu (23 January 2016). "Pejawar seer felicitates Nira Radia". The Hindu. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  13. ^ "Corporate Information - Crownmart International India Private Limited - Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India". ZaubaCorp. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  14. ^ "ModiLuft To Pay Rs 13.5 Crore Tax To Resume Operations". Financial Express. 11 May 2002. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  15. ^ Jaspal Singh, J. (13 February 1998). "Delhi High Court - Air Uk Leasing Limited vs Union Of India & Others - Order by Jaspal Singh, J. on 13 February, 1998". Indian Kanoon. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Kavitha Iyer (7 Sep 2009). "Flying power". Indian Express. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  17. ^ "Maharashtra govt approves Rs 24 crore to repair aging helicopter". Indian Express. 20 January 2016. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  18. ^ Ranvir Nayar (20 August 1999). "Jet Airway's plan to acquire 5 aircraft runs into rough weather". India Abroad News Service. Financial Express. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  19. ^ RK Anand (11 May 2011). "How Niira Radia cosied up to BJP's Ananth Kumar". FirstPost. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  20. ^ Rohit Saran (7 August 2000). "Indian Airlines may finally get new aircraft, better finances post Patna air crash". India Today. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  21. ^ "Shri Ananth Kumar, Shri Chaoba Singh Take Charge". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 29 October 1999. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  22. ^ Aparna Kalra (12 April 2000). "Singapore keen on liberal air bilateral pact with India -- SIA". Financial Express. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  23. ^ Surajeet Das Gupta (9 January 2015). "Vistara's maiden flight ends the Tatas' and Singapore Airlines' 20-year wait to fly in India". Business Standard. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  24. ^ Puja Mehra (28 August 2000). "Crown To Begin Service With Six Aircraft". Business Standard. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  25. ^ Rupali Mukherjee (6 January 2001). "Crown Express may start operations by April–May". Financial Express. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  26. ^ "He quit or did Sahara show him the door?". UNI. The Tribune India. 6 Aug 2000. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  27. ^ "Uttam Bose refutes Sahara charges". The Hindu Business Line. 7 Aug 2000. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  28. ^ a b c "How to use friends and influence people". India Today. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  29. ^ a b VK Shashikumar; Tejas Patel (12 May 2011). "Radia headhunted the right policy-influencers". FirstPost. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  30. ^ a b "Who's who in Niira Radia 'success story'". Hindustan Times. 19 Nov 2010. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  31. ^ "Niira Radia calls it a day in PR; Tata account goes to Rediffusion". Press Trust of India. FirstPost. 31 Oct 2011. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  32. ^ Arlene (24 Aug 2012). "Niira Radia starts consultancy firm, stays away from publicity". FirstPost. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  33. ^ "Cong links Vajpayee, Advani with Radia". Indian Express. 25 Dec 2010. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  34. ^ ViewoLogy (13 November 2013). "After launching Pegasus Advisory in 2012, Niira Radia makes a quiet return with Nayati Healthcare and Naarayani Investments". Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  35. ^ "Corporate Information - Nayati Healthcare & Research Pvt. Ltd. - Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India". ZaubaCorp. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  36. ^ "Niira Radia enters healthcare business; Ratan Tata inaugurates first hospital". Press Trust of India. The Hindu. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  37. ^ "Teen kidnapped by mother's business partner". Times of India. 28 Apr 2003. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  38. ^ RK Anand (11 May 2011). "Niira ditches the man who knew too much about her". FirstPost. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  39. ^ Smriti Singh (28 Jan 2011). "Radia's son wants contempt action". Times of India. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  40. ^ "Nira Radia sues RK Anand for tell-all book". Daily News and Analysis. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  41. ^ "Delhi high court seeks Nira Radia's response of lifting ban on book on her". Press Trust of India. Daily News and Analysis. 3 Jun 2011. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  42. ^ Gaurav Choudhury (18 Aug 2014). "Heat on defunct Radia firm over Rs. 1,700cr Tata-Unitech loan deal". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 29 Feb 2016. 
  43. ^ http://www.financialexpress.com/article/industry/companies/panama-papers-mossack-fonseca-set-up-nira-radias-foreign-company/232996/
  44. ^ Sarin, Ritu (7 April 2016). "Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca set up firm linked to Niira Radia". The Indian Express. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 

External links[edit]