A probe launched by Bursa Malaysia into AirAsia in the wake of allegations that the top bosses of the budget airline were part of a massive bribery case involving Airbus came to an abrupt end following the intervention of the Securities Commission (SC), MalaysiaNow can reveal.
As a result of the intervention, Bursa Malaysia, the Malaysian stock exchange, was unable to proceed with the investigation it had announced in early February 2020, into allegations that AirAsia had received US$50 million in bribes from Airbus to secure the sponsorship of a sports team in exchange for the purchase of its planes.
After further investigation, MalaysiaNow can categorically confirm that some time between Feb 11 and 12, 2020, the SC had asked Bursa to stand down from its investigation and to cease all communication with AirAsia Group Bhd and AirAsia X Bhd relating to the Airbus matter.
It is understood that at the time, Bursa was investigating possible breaches of Section 132 of the Companies Act, Section 317A of the Capital Market and Services Act 2007, and Chapter 10 of the Main Market Listings Requirements, in addition to other violations.
It is also learnt that the SC had then told Bursa that it would be taking over the case from that point onwards.
On Monday, MalaysiaNow reported that there had been no word on the outcome of the probe by the SC, more than two years after the capital market regulator announced it had begun an investigation into AirAsia.
The case against AirAsia first came to public knowledge on Jan 31, 2020, based on court documents filed by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Britain’s anti-corruption authority.
The SFO said Airbus had paid a bribe of US$50 million to secure plane orders from AirAsia, in what investigators believed was part of a pattern of corruption by the aircraft manufacturer spreading over about a dozen countries including Malaysia.
The revelations rocked the aviation world, with authorities in several countries launching their own investigations into those responsible. In the process, at least two airline bosses in Indonesia and Sri Lanka were charged or jailed.
The SFO alleged that Airbus had bribed AirAsia for US$50 million in the form of sponsorships of a sports team owned by two persons it named as “Executive 1” and “Executive 2” in AirAsia.
“AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 were key decision makers in AirAsia and AirAsia X, and were rewarded in respect of the order of 180 aircraft from Airbus. The payments to the sports team were intended to secure or reward improper favour by them in respect of that business,” the SFO said in court documents sighted by MalaysiaNow.
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun subsequently announced that they were stepping down pending an internal probe by the company, which eventually cleared them and reinstated them in their positions.
There has been no public response or explanation from the SC since MalaysiaNow highlighted its pending investigation on AirAsia.