AirAsia's Tony, Kamarudin step aside for 2 months

Marco Green
February 3, 2020

File picture shows Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad witnessing Air Asia Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun (second right) and Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury (second left) at the signing of a joint venture agreement between Airbus and Air Asia Group, August 30, 2018.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and chairman Kamarudin Meranun will step aside for at least two months while the airline and authorities investigate allegations Airbus paid a bribe of US$50 million (S$68.4 million) to win plane orders from the company.

Airbus said over the weekend it would not comment on the Malaysian investigations.

"The Committee has decided that in view of the current hard economic circumstances facing the airline industry, to retain them as advisors to the Company during this two month period".

The low-priced carrier also highlighted that each aircraft purchase agreement was made after the collective decision of its board members, post taking into account technical specifications, aircraft flight performance and operating economics.

Kamarudin and Tony Fernandes would be redesignated as non-independent non-executive board members of AAGB. We categorically deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia.

"This is in clear violation of fundamental principles of fairness". We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.

Last week, AirAsia's name came up in a United Kingdom court judgement for a corruption trial involving aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE, in which Airbus allegedly bribed two unnamed executives - dubbed as "key decision-makers" at AirAsia - with some US$50 million in exchange for purchasing Airbus aircraft.

"This agreement and the contents were arrived at without any reference to us; neither were any explanations sought from us", Mr Fernandes and Mr Kamarudin said in their statement.

"Will extend our fullest cooperation", they added.

"The committee's main objective will be to review the allegations therein so far, as it concerns AirAsia Group Bhd, and to take any necessary action based on the review", AirAsia said in a filing today.

AirAsia shares lost 15 sen or 10.49% to close at RM1.28 today, trimming its market capitalisation to RM4.28 billion.

The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) had said that it will examine the statement of facts in the case of Regina vs Airbus SE which disclosed several allegations against both companies.

AirAsia has said it will fully cooperate with Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission, which is working alongside Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probing the claims.

"As AirAsia and its executives have no visibility on Airbus' internal processes, we can not comment on or be associated with any alleged failures or lapses on the part of Airbus to comply with its own policies or applicable legal requirements", the airline added.

Three Malaysian authorities are now probing the allegations, namely the Securities Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Malaysian Aviation Commission.

AirAsia had since denied that it was involved in any way whatsoever with the SFO's investigation of Airbus nor given any opportunity to provide any information or clarification to the SFO.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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