AirAsia’s Tony, Kamarudin Take Two-Month Break Amid Graft Probe

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AirAsia Group Bhd (AAGB) executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes will relinquish their executive positions within the group with immediate effect, in the wake of corruption allegations in connection with Airbus.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the airline said the relinquishment would be for a period of two months or such other period the company deemed 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 decided to retain them as advisers 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 the acting CEO of AAGB in the interim,” it said.

Kamarudin and Tony Fernandes are re-designated as non-independent non-executive board members of AAGB.

AAGB and sister group AirAsia X Bhd plunged in active trade after the report on bribery probe surfaced.

At 5pm, AirAsia Group dropped 15 sen, or 10.49%, to RM1.28 with 57.67 million shares changing hands, while AirAsia X dipped one sen, or 7.69 %, to 12 sen with 32.97 million shares transacted.

The Securities Commission (SC) has said that it will examine the statement of facts in the case of Regina vs Airbus SE, which has exposed several allegations against both companies.

AirAsia, in a statement released on Saturday, denied the allegations, saying it was neither involved in the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into European aircraft maker Airbus nor had it been given an opportunity to provide 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 press reports 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 has also initiated an investigation into the kickback allegations.