AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes steps aside

An AirAsia plane

Businessman Tony Fernandes is stepping aside from his post as the chief executive officer of low-cost carrier AirAsia Group amid an ongoing probe over an alleged bribery.

In a statement late on Monday, AirAsia Group said that Fernandes and the company’s executive chairman, Kamarudin Meranun, are leaving their post for two months after AirAsia Group Bhd. and AirAsia X were linked to a bribery issue allegedly by aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

“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,” the statement read.

“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,” it added.

However, the two officials will remain as the airline’s advisors.

News emerged last week that Airbus made a $4-billion settlement with the United States, France, and Britain, allegedly for bribing public officials and making hidden payments.

According to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in Britain on Friday, Airbus’ former parent firm EADS paid $50 million from October 2013 to January 2015 to sponsor a sports team that was said to be jointly owned by two AirAsia executives.

The officials were also allegedly rewarded for 180 aircraft orders from Airbus.

AirAsia had said that each aircraft purchase agreement was not 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”.

The matter prompted the Securities Commission Malaysia to launch a probe into the issue.

“The Securities Commission Malaysia will examine the allegations and review all available evidence to determine if there is any breach of securities laws,” said the regulator’s chairman, Syed Zaid Albar.

“As both are listed on Bursa Malaysia, the Securities Commission Malaysia will examine the allegations and review all available evidence to determine if there is any breach of securities laws,” he added.

Malaysia’s anti-graft watchdog has also commenced with its separate probe to look into the potential corruption issue, and that it was in coordination with the United Kingdom authorities to probe into the matter.

AirAsia Group is a multi-national budget carrier established in 1993 and is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Its subsidiaries are AirAsia, AirAsia India, Philippines AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia.

PHOTO COURTESY: FLICKR