AirAsia Group Bhd executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes have relinquish their executive roles with immediate effect since yesterday (Monday, 3rd February).
The duo, who collectively hold 32.1% stake in the company, are facing allegations that they had received a US$50 million (RM205 million) bribe from aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
In the interim of at least 2 months, deputy group CEO (airlines) Tharumalingam Kanagalingam has appointed to step in as acting CEO. The Edge reported that “the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) has become the third authority in Malaysia to launch a probe on the executives at the two airlines” – namely AirAsia and its sister company AirAsia X Bhd (AAX).
As aforementioned, word on street has it that Airbus had bribed the two executives in order “to secure lucrative contracts to supply aircraft to the Southeast Asian budget carriers”. In exchange, a sponsorship of US$50 million was intended for the pair’s owned sports team. As per Reuters, the sports team in question is the Caterham F1 racing team.
Kamarudin and Tony have released a joint statement that reads:
“We refer to the press announcement made by AirAsia on 01 Feb 2020 in relation to allegations made against us in the “Airbus’ Deferred Prosecution Agreement”. This Agreement and the contents were arrived at without any reference to us; neither were any explanations sought from us. This is in clear violation of fundamental legal principles of fairness.
We categorically deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia. We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.
So as to facilitate a full and independent investigation by AirAsia, we are relinquishing our executive roles with immediate effect for a period of two months, or such other period that the companies may deem fit.
We will nonetheless continue to assist AirAsia in an advisory capacity as and when required. Finally, we welcome any investigations by the authorities and will extend our fullest cooperation.”