Former Caterham Formula 1 team chief Tony Fernandes has denied any wrongdoing in connection with a corruption scandal involving the aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
AirAsia, the airline co-founded and operated by Fernandes, is one of several airlines named in the case filed against Airbus by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
A worldwide investigation was shared between the British, US and French authorities, with the SFO taking responsibility for Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia and Ghana.
It has led Airbus to face fines and penalties of over 3.5 billion euros through settlement agreements.
A sponsorship agreement between the parent company Airbus EADS and Caterham would have influenced AirAsia’s decision to order the airline’s planes. The Malaysian airline only uses Airbus products.
Details of the case were revealed in an approved judgment issued on Friday by Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench division of the Royal Courts of Justice.
In it he wrote: “The first count states that, contrary to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015, Airbus SE failed to prevent people associated with Airbus SE from bribing other interested persons. the purchase of aircraft from AirAsia and AirAsia X Airlines of Airbus, in particular directors and / or employees of AirAsia airlines in which the aforementioned bribery was intended to obtain or maintain business or benefits in conducting business for Airbus SE. “
He added in relation to Caterham: “The improper payment consisted of $ 50 million [and Airbus employees also offered but did not pay an additional $55m] paid to directors and / or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship of a sports team.
“The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2, but legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X.”
In a statement released Monday, AirAsia said it “vigorously rejects and denies any wrongdoing allegations.”
AirAsia also confirmed that CEO Fernandes and executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin bin Meranun left their role for two months as an investigation was completed.
They will remain as consultants, without executive authority.
Regarding this step, the company stated that “the main objective will be to review the allegations contained therein regarding [AirAsia]and take the necessary actions based on the review. “
He added: “Airbus’ involvement in sponsoring the sports team was a well-known and widely publicized issue that brought the brand and other benefits to Airbus.
“AirAsia’s sponsorship of the sports team was subject to due internal evaluations and approvals before being considered and approved by the board of directors.”
In a separate statement, Fernandes and Kamarudin denied any inadequacies in relation to Caterham’s sponsorship deal, also pointing out that it was highly publicized at the time.
They said they “categorically deny any allegations of abuse or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia.
We would not harm the same companies that we have spent our entire lives building up to their current global state. “
They added: “Caterham F1, the company alleged to have been improperly sponsored by Airbus, was currently a Formula 1 racing team that had traveled around the world promoting among others AirAsia, AirAsia X, GE and Airbus .
“Throughout the period, we were shareholders in Caterham, the company made no profit and was eventually sold [£1] in 2014.
“From start to finish, this was a branding exercise and not a profit-making venture.”