The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the United Kingdom has alleged that Airbus SE bribed directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X to secure the purchase of aircraft from the airliner manufacturer
According to court documents dated 31 January 2020 from the Southwark Crown Court, a designated serious fraud centre in the United Kingdon (UK), "persons associated with Airbus offered very substantial sums of money by way of bribes to third parties in order to secure the purchase of aircraft".
In the brief facts of the counts on the criminal accusation, the court documents made available to the public by the UK Judicial Office stated that the first count alleges that between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015, Airbus failed to prevent its people from bribing directors and/or employees of AirAsia where the said bribery was intended to obtain or retain business for the airliner manufacturer.
"AirAsia and AirAsia X are two major airlines in Southeast Asia, headquartered in Malaysia and were significant customers of Airbus at the time of the offences," paragraphs 40 of the court documents read.
"Between October 2005 and November 2014, AirAsia and AirAsia X ordered 406 aircraft from Airbus, including 180 aircraft secured by way 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.
"The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X," according to the brief facts of the documents.
The sports team mentioned in the court documents is Queens Park Rangers (QPR) Football Club.
According to Queens Park Rangers' Wikipedia page, it has three owners with Tan Sri Dr Anthony Francis Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun's Tune Group holding 55% stake, Malaysian businessman Ruben Gnanalingam with 33% stake, and India's richest person Lakshmi Mittal holding an 11% stake.
AirAsia has since issued a statement on the SFO's allegations
According to the statement, AirAsia "was neither involved in any way whatsoever with the SFO's investigation of Airbus nor given any opportunity to provide any information or clarification to the SFO".
AirAsia said it never made any purchase decisions that were based on sponsorship by Airbus of QPR jointly owned by AirAsia executives
AirAsia vigorously rejects and denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing.
"The entering into of each aircraft purchase agreement was never made by any single individual decision, but instead arrived at through careful evaluation, deliberation and the collective decision of the board members after taking into account technical specifications, aircraft flight performance and operating economics," read the statement by AirAsia made available to SAYS.
"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."
According to the budget carrier, negotiations and dealings for aircraft purchases were done "directly with Airbus on an arm's length basis, and without the involvement of any third parties or intermediaries"
In the statement that was issued yesterday, 1 February, the airline stated that "AirAsia executives negotiated rigorously in the interests of the company and had at all times acted in good faith."
"Furthermore, the involvement of Airbus in the sponsorship of the sports team was a well-known and widely-publicised matter bringing branding and other benefits to Airbus," it added.
Meanwhile, according to the statement issued by the airline, it cannot comment on or be associated with any alleged failures or lapses on the part of Airbus to comply with its own policies or applicable legal requirements as "AirAsia and its executives have no visibility on Airbus' internal processes".
Prior to AirAsia's statement, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said that the agency is in "touch with the UK authorities and is already investigating the matter"
The anti-graft agency has the jurisdiction to investigate any act of corruption committed by any Malaysian citizen or permanent resident in any place outside of Malaysia, according to the MACC boss.
"Under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission 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," MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya said in a statement yesterday.
"In the case of the Airbus-AirAsia disclosures, I confirm that the MACC is in touch with the UK authorities and is already investigating the matter," read the statement posted on its official Twitter account.
AirAsia said that it will fully cooperate with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the relevant authorities where required