A senior company executive at Air Asia, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam, will be the acting CEO.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes and chairman step aside amid Airbus bribery probe
Money Bribery Tuesday, February 04, 2020 - 17:11
Written by  S. Mahadevan

Following serious allegations that Airbus indirectly bribed Air Asia to win an order for aircraft, Tony Fernandes, CEO and Kamarudin Meranun, Chairman of Air Asia have stepped aside for two months. This is a temporary arrangement till the investigations on this allegation are completed, reports Reuters.

At this point in time, there are multiple agencies probing the charge that the two, identified as Air Asia Executives had gained from a sponsorship contribution worth $50 million made by Airbus to Caterham Formula 1 racing team. The F1 racing team was formed by Tony Fernandes and EADS, the parent company that owns Airbus. The $50 million contribution made by EADS to the team is being termed a quid pro quo for the decision by Air Asia and Air Asia X to buy 180 Airbus aircraft. The payment is said to have been made in 2013 and in 2011 the Caterham F1 team was jointly owned by Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin.

Tony and Kamarudin stepping down from their positions in the airline may not affect its operations, since they will continue to remain “advisors” to the airline. As an interim arrangement, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam has been appointed as acting CEO of the airline.

The duo has issued a joint statement denying any wrongdoing on their part. Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Malaysia’s Securities Commission have both taken up the task of investigating the allegation against the airline and its top executives.

The allegations of kickbacks in the aircraft purchase deals have come out in London, where Airbus agreed for a settlement with three countries, France, the US and the UK by paying $5 billion. The accusation there also was that Airbus had been securing orders for its aircraft by paying back in form of favours to those in charge of making the decisions to buy their planes.

Now Fernandes and Kamarudin claim that the settlement arrived at by Airbus negotiated through prosecutors in London was done without referring back to them and is a “violation of fundamental legal principles of fairness”.

The allegations included the suggestion that apart from the $50 million that was paid by EADS another $55 million was offered by Airbus employees, but no payment was made. 

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