AirAsia Bhd has rejected allegations that it acted improperly when it bought aircraft from Europe’s Airbus SE years ago.
In a statement on its website recently, AirAsia said it was neither involved in any way with the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation of Airbus, nor was it given any opportunity to provide any information or clarification to the SFO.
AirAsia was responding to media reports on the Deferred Prosecution Agreement entered into by Airbus SE and the UK SFO on Jan 31.
Reports noted that legal documents attached to the settlement revealed instances of bribery, including Airbus paying and offering millions to sponsor a sports team linked to two unnamed executives described as “key decision makers” at AirAsia and AirAsiaX.
The reports also said the airlines ordered 180 aircraft from Airbus, with the executives described as being “rewarded in respect of the aircraft order” which the document said was “secured by way of improper payments”.
According to a Reuters report on Jan 31 quoting prosecutors, Airbus bribed public officials and hid the payments as part of a pattern of worldwide corruption “as the European plane maker agreed a record US$4bil (RM16.4bil) settlement with France, Britain and the United States”.
The report said the disclosures were made public after a nearly four-year investigation “spanning sales to more than a dozen overseas markets, came as courts on both sides of the Atlantic formally approved settlements that lift a legal cloud that has hung over Europe’s largest aerospace group for years”.
“The articles referenced above allege that certain agreements by AirAsia to order Airbus aircraft were improperly linked to sponsorship by Airbus of a sports team jointly owned by AirAsia executives. AirAsia vigorously rejects and denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing,” said AirAsia.
“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.
“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.
“We also wish to emphasise that all negotiations and dealings leading to the signing of any aircraft purchase agreement have been undertaken directly with Airbus on an arm’s length basis, and without the involvement of any third parties or intermediaries. In any event, AirAsia is aware that correspondence between the company and Airbus dating back more than a decade has been reported in the press without proper context or review, and we are concerned that views and opinions on the matter may have been formed unfairly and prematurely.
“AirAsia is monitoring developments in this matter and will review any allegations or negative inferences concerning or affecting AirAsia and/or any of its executives and will fully cooperate with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the relevant authorities where required,” the AirAsia statement added.
On its part, MACC confirmed it has initiated investigations into the allegations, with its chief commissioner Latheefa Koya saying the commission is in touch with UK authorities.
Latheefa added the MACC Act empowers it to investigate any act of corruption committed by any Malaysian citizen or permanent resident, even outside Malaysia.