Rahul Gandhi is not the frequent flier you will see boarding a commercial aircraft. And god save the air traffic controller who discloses his flight plans to anybody. Instructions have been given to the ATC to keep a lid on the Congress vice-president’s jet-setting ways.
That’s one part of the story. The other is that Rahul flies only by chartered aircraft owned by a gentleman who answers to the name Semoun Jolly. For the Congress, it’s said, Semoun is the jolly good fella who keeps the Gandhi scion airborne when it’s needed and ensures safe landings for the man who the Congress hopes will become prime minister one day.
Who is Semoun Jolly? That’s the million-dollar question. They say till the turn of the century, Semoun was an unknown, working with a ground handling firm at Delhi airport. Then, one fine day, he becomes the owner of Air Charter Services with a fleet of aircraft that ferry the rich from one point to another, for a fee. They say Rahul boards only Semoun-owned aircraft, his favourite a BE350.
Jolly was working with M/s Saraya Aviation owned by Punjab revenue minister BS Majithia for Rs3,000 a month. His former colleagues say that Jolly was very good in managing records and at administration. Sources said when Jolly branched out on his own, top Congress leaders pumped big money into his charter service company called quite aptly Air Charter Services.
“Jolly is a pawn, he is the face of the company, but everyone in the aviation industry knows who all are the behind-the-scene operators. Key Congressmen have pumped lots of unaccounted money into Air Charter Services,” said an industry insider.
“We do not discuss client-related queries and client-procurement model with the media,” Jolly told dna.
According to Jolly’s former colleagues, people in the industry are jealous of his steep growth in the aviation industry. “A few years ago, Jolly used to stay in a two-room house in Delhi’s lower-middle class Tilak Nagar colony. But now, he owns a big house in a posh South Delhi colony. His enormous growth has also brought with it several enemies,” a source said.
Jolly was born and brought up in a Punjabi family in Delhi. Sources said no only Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka and her kids also fly in Jolly’s air charter firm.
Sources said Rahul Gandhi usually always travels by private chartered aircraft. There are many private airlines which offer such services. But Rahul prefers Air Charter Services. As of now, Air Charter Services has seven aircraft, including a BE350.
It’s said that because of the Congress links, Air Charter Services does not keep official records of Rahul’s trips. Entries for Rahul Gandhi in the airport authority logbook are always made in the names of unknown people. Sources said the air traffic control gets a wireless communication from the SPG that Rahul Gandhi would be flying and that the flight should not be delayed. Give the aircraft topmost priority goes the order.
“As Rahul Gandhi cannot enjoy the official status of a VVIP, airport staff do not make any entry in the logbook,” said a source. Officially, only the president, vice-president, prime minister and heads of foreign states have that privilege. In spite of this, Rahul Gandhi gets special treatment.
Air traffic controllers have been told this in no uncertain terms. Citing security reasons, airport authorities keep Rahul’s travel plans secret.
According to the source, Rahul Gandhi makes frequent visits to his parliamentary constituency Rae Bareli. He also gets special treatment at the national pilot training academy. Ajay Tripathi, Rae Bareli district president of the BJP, said the Congress vice-president’s chartered aircraft regularly lands at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) airstrip. “Being a member of the governing council of IGRUA, Rahul Gandhi receives VVIP treatment and all rules are violated to facilitate his flights.”
Tripathi alleged that IGRUA has entered into a contract with a Canadian firm — Canadian Aviation Electronics — to turn the institute into a world-class institution. “IGRUA is shelling out $350,000 annually to the Canadian firm, but the institute is still in poor condition. Though a government institute, IGRUA is run like a private limited company of the Congress,” Tripathi said.
Early this month, Rahul Gandhi’s aircraft had a narrow escape at Delhi airport, when the business jet of the Air Charter Services he was on board was about to land. In 2010, an Air Charter Service air ambulance crashed in Faridabad, killing 10 people.
According to the ministry of corporate affairs, Air Charter Service Private Ltd was incorporated in September 2000 with an authorised share capital of Rs5 lakh. Delhi-based Semoun Jolly has been director of the company since its inception. There are two other directors — Kamlesh Jolly and Maninder Singh Sethi - as per the registrar of companies.
When contacted, Semoun Jolly refused to answer dna’s queries on his business operations. The company website boasts of a fleet which includes Pilatus PC12, King Air350, King Air B200, and Cessna Citation Excel. It also has air ambulances and a fleet of Augusta Westland choppers.
Between October 2011 and August 2012, the company created mortgages totalling about Rs30 lakh, as per the registrar of companies. It raised Rs9.5 lakh from Canara Bank in October 2011, Rs10 lakh from the same bank in January 2012 and Rs11 lakh from Yes Bank in August 2012.
The company has not disclosed the list of its shareholders in the annual returns filed for 2011-12 and 2012-13. As per the shareholding pattern, according to annual returns for 2010-11, Semoun Jolly holds 18,56,400 shares of Rs10 each. Other shareholders in the company include Kamlesh Jolly, Semoun Jolly HUF, Maninder Singh and Ashok Jolly HUF, CPCT Media Private Ltd. SSJ Metals Equipment Private Ltd also hold stake in the company as per the annual returns of 2010-11.
Number of shares held in 2010-11
Semoun Jolly : 1856400
Kamlesh Jolly: 2056400
Semoun Jolly HUF : 400000
Maninder Singh : 4491976
Ashok Jolly HUF : 179176
CPCT Media Private Ltd: 508024
SSJ Metals Equipments Private Ltd: 508024