AirAsia Group (AAGB) executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes will relinquish their executive positions within the group, effective immediately, following an Airbus bribery probe.
In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the airline said the relinquishment would be for a period of two months or such other period that the company may deem fit.
In view of the current difficult economic circumstances facing the airline industry, a Non-Executive Independent Board Committee formed by AAGB’s board of directors has also decided to retain them as advisors to the company during the two-month period.
The committee comprises the non-executive members of the board.
“On the recommendation of the committee, Tharumalingam Kanagalingam has been appointed as the acting CEO of AAGB in the interim,” it said.
Kamarudin (below) and Tony Fernandes (above) would be redesignated as non-independent non-executive board members of AAGB.
In a separate statement, both Kamarudin and Fernandes categorically denied any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on their part as directors of AirAsia.
They said the Airbus’ deferred prosecution agreement and the contents were arrived at without any reference to them.
“Neither were any explanations sought from us. This is in clear violation of fundamental legal principles of fairness. We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.
“So, as to facilitate a full and independent investigation by AirAsia, 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,” they said.
Both Kamarudin and Tony Fernandes said they will nonetheless continue to assist AirAsia in an advisory capacity as and when required and welcome any investigations by the authorities.
“(We) will extend our fullest cooperation,” they added.
Both AAGB and AirAsia X plunged in active trade after the report on bribery probe surfaced.
At 5pm, AirAsia Group's lost 15 sen or 10.49 percent lower at RM1.28 with 57.67 million shares changed hands, while AirAsia X dipped one sen or 7.69 percent to 12 sen with 32.97 million shares transacted.
The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) had said that it will examine the statement of facts in the case of Regina vs Airbus SE which disclosed several allegations against both companies.
AirAsia, in a statement released on Saturday, denied the allegations, saying it was neither involved in any way whatsoever with the UK Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation of European aircraft maker Airbus nor was given an opportunity to provide any information or clarification to the SFO.
It was referring to an article entitled “AirAsia directors/staff got RM240 mil bribe from Airbus, court docs say” in several media regarding the "Deferred Prosecution Agreement" entered into by Airbus SE and the SFO on Jan 31, 2020.
The articles alleged that certain agreements by AirAsia to order Airbus’ aircraft were improperly linked to sponsorship by the aircraft maker of a sports team jointly owned by two AirAsia executives.
In an immediate response, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) has also initiated an investigation into allegations against both companies by contracting authorities in the United Kingdom.