Malaysia-based budget airlines AirAsia on Monday said that two of its top executives will step aside as several countries investigate a multi-billion dollar bribery scandal, reported AFP. There are allegations that Airbus paid $50 million (Rs 355 crore approximately) as sponsorship for a sports team owned by two unnamed AirAsia executives. In return, AirAsia bought 180 aircraft from Airbus.
Air Asia’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes and Executive Chairman Kamarudin Meranun will step down from their respective positions immediately. Both will stand down “for a period of two months or such other period that the company may deem fit”, the airline said in a stock filing.
This came after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office named AirAsia in the alleged bribery scandal. “The payments to the sports team were intended to secure or reward improper favour by them in respect of that business,” said a court document on the SFO’s website.
The airline’s board, which formed a committee to review the allegations, said Kamarudin and Fernandes would be retained as advisors. Their designations would change to non-independent non-executive board members.
Both Fernandes and Maranun have denied any wrongdoing. In a joint statement on Monday, they said they “would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.”
On Saturday, Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission said it was empowered to investigate any act of corruption committed by citizens or permanent residents anywhere outside the country. “In the case of the Airbus-AirAsia disclosures, I can confirm that the MACC is in touch with the UK authorities and is already investigating the matter,” said Chief Commissioner Latheefa Koya.
Last week, Airbus said it was ready to set aside up to 3.6 billion euros to settle the corruption probe by authorities in France, Britain and the United States.