KUALA LUMPUR― AirAsia Group Bhd founders Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun are reportedly “shocked” over the allegations that the two of the budget carrier’s top executives were involved in a graft charge in the United Kingdom.
Financial paper Focus Malaysia quoted an internal memo addressed to all of AirAsia staff over the accusation that two unnamed top executives had received bribes worth up to US$50 million (RM205 million) from European plane-maker Airbus.
“When you are famous there are many that are jealous and want to bring you down,” Fernandes and Kamarudin, who are also top executives and key shareholders of AAGB and AirAsia X Bhd, reportedly wrote.
The announcement said the two of them will be on garden leave for two months or any other period that AirAsia finds necessary.
Meanwhile, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam has been appointed as the acting CEO.
Previously it was reported that UK’s Serious Fraud Office had accused AirAsia and AirAsia X executives of receiving the US$50 million bribe from Airbus as part of the deal to secure an order for 180 aircrafts.
British prosecutors accused Airbus of paying the sum to sponsor a sports team jointly owned by the two unnamed executives.
Apparently, the documents also claimed that Airbus employees had tried to pay an additional US$55 million to the AirAsia and AirAsia X’s directors and/or employees but could not do so as there was a freeze on payments to agents and intermediaries on October 2014.
A report by Reuters on February 1 stated that the allegations concern a 2012 sponsorship agreement between the now-defunct Caterham Formula 1 racing team, founded by AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes, and Airbus’s then-parent, EADS.
However, Fernandes and Kamarudin had jointly defended their involvement with the racing team, and said they were unfairly targetted.
“We built and (sic) amazing brand and F1 was part of it. We are all in shock. We did nothing wrong. But another challenge and we come back stronger. I will be firmly behind in making sure we come out stronger from coronavirus,” they said in the memo.
At the same time, regulators Malaysian Aviation Commission and Securities Commission Malaysia as well as enforcement agency Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have launched independent investigations into the scandal.