Malaysia’s AirAsia denies Airbus graft claims

Malaysia’s AirAsia denies Airbus graft claims
A Thai Air Asia Airbus A320-200 plane prepares for take off at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, June 29, 2016. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 03 February 2020

Malaysia’s AirAsia denies Airbus graft claims

Malaysia’s AirAsia denies Airbus graft claims
  • Says that the company was “improperly linked” to sponsorship of a sports team

KUALA LAMPUR: Malaysia’s AirAsia has denied any wrongdoing in the purchase of Europe’s Airbus, after allegations levied by authorities in Malaysia and the UK surfaced on Saturday.

In a statement released on Saturday, the popular Malaysian budget airline said: “(AirAsia) was neither involved in any way whatsoever with the SFO’s (Britain's Serious Fraud Office) investigation of Airbus nor given any opportunity to provide any information or clarification to the SFO.”

AirAsia claimed that the company was “improperly linked” to sponsorship by Airbus of a sports team jointly owned by AirAsia executives, and the company “vigorously rejects and denies” any and all allegations of wrongdoing.

AirAsia’s denial was in response to media reports quoting UK court documents which alleged that directors from low-cost carrier AirAsia Group Bhd and its long-haul unit AirAsia X Bhd had received bribes from European planemaker Airbus SE.

The documents say that a $50 million pay-off was given. However, it also details Airbus executives’ failed attempt to pay an additional $55 million to AirAsia and AirAsiaX.

AirAsia explained that an agreement to purchase the aircraft was “never made by any single individual decision” but arrived at through collective decision-making by a group of board members.

“The superiority and reliability of the aircraft and increasingly attractive pricing being offered to maintain our competitive edge in the airline business were key considerations. As a customer of Airbus since 2005, AirAsia never made purchase decisions that were premised on an Airbus sponsorship,” a statement released by the multi-billion-dollar aviation company said.

Despite the volatility of the global aviation industry, its founder, Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes has built the company into a powerful Southeast Asian brand, spearheading the tagline “Now everyone can fly”.

The biggest scandal involving Southeast Asia’s biggest airlines has prompted the Malaysian authorities to open an investigation over the AirAsia-Airbus disclosures.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Latheefa Koya said that she was “in touch with the UK authorities” and was already investigating the matter.

“Under the MACC Act we are empowered, and have jurisdiction, to investigate any act of corruption committed by any Malaysian citizen or permanent resident in any place outside Malaysia,” said Koya. 

AirAsia responded that it would “fully cooperate” with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“AirAsia is deeply concerned that these allegations will have an adverse and negative impact on the AirAsia brand, reputation and goodwill,” the company said.