4 February 2020
In its filings with UK authorities for a deferred prosecution agreement in the UK Airbus said that it paid $50 million in sponsorships to a sports team jointly owned by two AirAsia executives as a reward for an order for 180 aircraft, later amended to 135. The executives were not named. Airbus made improper payment of US$50 million to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team. The 32-page document said the sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X. An additional improper payment of US$55 million was prevented by the October 2014 freeze on payments, it said.
In 2009, Tony Fernandes together with AirAsia Group Chairman Kamarudin Meranun and Nasaruddin Nasimuddin, chairman of car assembler Naza Group, founded Caterham Formula One Team, which later counted Airbus among its sponsors. By 2015, the team started auctioning its assets after failing to find a buyer and it is now defunct.
AirAsia and AirAsia X are two major airlines in Southeast Asia headquartered in Malaysia and were significant customers of Airbus at the time of the offences.
Between October 2005 and November 2014, AirAsia and AirAsia X ordered 406 aircraft from Airbus, including 180 aircraft secured during the indictment period by way of improper payment (made by EADS France SAS, later Airbus Group SAS), and the offer of further improper payment.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has commenced its investigation on the corruption allegations. AirAsia has said that it would fully cooperate with the MACC. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and Chairman Kamarudin Meranun will step aside for at least two months allowing the airline and the authorities investigate the allegations. A committee consisting of the non-executive members of AirAsia’s board will review the allegations and take necessary action.
Fernandes Kamarudin will remain advisers because of the current difficult economic circumstances facing the airline industry partly due to Wuhan coronavirus epidemic scare. Senior company executive Tharumalingam Kanagalingam will be the acting CEO, effective immediately.
In a joint statement, Fernandes and Kamarudin denied any allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct as directors of AirAsia.
Reuters reported.