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Tony Fernandes And Kamarudin Relinquish Their Positions In AirAsia Amidst Bribery Probe

In the interim, AirAsia's deputy group CEO Tharumalingam Kanagalingam will act as the group CEO until further notice.

Cover image via Makhriz Hazim/Malaysiakini & Odisi.com

AirAsia Group Berhad's chief executive officer Tony Fernandes and executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun have temporarily vacated their posts amidst an Airbus bribery probe

In a statement made available to SAYS, the two top executives have relinquished their positions for two months, which may be extended to a period where the group deems fit.

They will continue serving the group as advisors whenever required, but will not have executive authority within the group, reported Reuters.

AirAsia's chief executive officer Tony Fernandes.

Image via Crispin Thurston/Reuters

Fernandes and Kamarudin denied that they were involved in the alleged crime of receiving a RM204 million bribe disguised as a sponsorship from Airbus

It was previously reported that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the United Kingdom alleged Airbus employees of securing the sale of 406 airplanes to AirAsia and AirAsia X by the means of "improper payment of USD50 million (RM204 million) paid to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team."

(Left to right) AirAsia Group Berhad's executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and Tony Fernandes.

Image via Bazuki Mohammad/Reuters

In response, Fernandes and Kamarudin denied all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on AirAsia's part.

"Airbus has agreed to pay a significant fine and costs to the SFO and also agreed to a statement of facts that appears to implicate executives of AirAsia," read the statement dated today, 4 February.

"The investigation by the SFO which reportedly took four years did not even once reach out to us (nor AirAsia, as stated in their press release of 1 February 2020) for any explanation or clarification.

"This is a clear violation of the fundamental legal principle of fairness and access to justice."

The Malaysian Reserve reported the duo as saying that they will never harm the group, which they spent their entire lives building to its current global status.

The statement asserted that their former Formula One racing team, Caterham F1, was not used to channel bribes from Airbus

Caterham F1 vehicle.

Image via Wikipedia

Fernandes and Kamarudin said that Caterham F1 made no profit throughout their ownership, which they labelled as merely "a branding exercise and not a venture to make profits".

They added that the F1 team was sponsored by AirAsia, AirAsia X, General Electric, Airbus, among others during its run in global circuits. The duo claimed that the team was eventually sold off for GBP1 (or RM5.33) in 2014.

The duo concluded that they will cooperate with the authorities to facilitate the relevant investigation

"Finally, we welcome any investigation by the authorities as that is the only way we will receive the fairness and access to justice denied us by the SFO process to date," said the statement.

The Edge Markets reported that AirAsia has appointed its deputy group CEO Tharumalingam Kanagalingam as acting CEO during the interim period.

Last Friday, 31 January, court documents from the UK alleged that "AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2" received Airbus' bribe in the form of a sports team sponsorship:

Meanwhile, an AirAsia flight to Wuhan, China returned this morning with 116 Malaysians who were left stranded by the lockdown: