BUDGET airlines AirAsia and AirAsiaX have been named in court documents in the UK as being the recipients of a US$50 million (RM240 million) bribe from European plane maker Airbus SE.

The documents in a multi-billion dollar settlement between the aircraft manufacturer and anti-graft authorities in Britain, France and the US state that two directors and employees of the low-cost carrier and its long-haul unit were paid the sum for Airbus to secure contracts through corrupt middlemen to sell its aircraft worldwide.

In the settlement, Airbus agreed to pay nearly €1 billion (RM4.5 billion) in the UK, €2.1 billionin France and €530 million in the US.

The documents, sighted by The Malaysian Insight, state that Airbus paid US$50 million (RM204 million) and offered US$55 million more to sponsor a sports team linked to two unnamed “key decision makers” at AirAsia and AirAsiaX.

“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 a further improper payment.

“The improper payment consisted of $50 million (and Airbus employees also offered but did not pay an additional $55 million) paid to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team.

“The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X,” it added.

The legal documents show that the further inducements were prevented by an October 2014 freeze on payments.

AirAsia and AirAsia X were significant customers of Airbus at the time of the offences.

“The airlines ordered 180 aircraft from Airbus, with the executives described as being ‘rewarded in respect of the aircraft order’ which the document said was ‘secured by way of improper payments’,” the UK’s The Telegraph reported.

It also cited an angry email from one of the executives to a senior Airbus official.

“You owe me four million already and I’m owed 16 million in total. This should have been paid ages ago when I bought the first 60 aircraft. I want my money,” the email read.

Apart from Malaysia, the UK part of the settlement involves bribery allegations in Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Ghana, between 2011 and 2015.

The Malaysian Insight is trying to reach AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes for comment.

the malaysian insight