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AirAsia says review cleared Airbus sponsorships; Tony Fernandes reinstated to CEO

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Malaysia's AirAsia Group Bhd said on Friday that the internal inquiry into corruption allegations by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has found that its procurement process with Airbus was robust and justifiable.

[KUALA LUMPUR] AirAsia Group Bhd on Friday said an independent probe into corruption allegations from Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has found the Malaysian airline's procurement process with European planemaker Airbus SE robust and justifiable.

In a filing with the stock exchange, AirAsia said Airbus's sponsorship of a sports team the airline's top executives co-owned was at the relevant time disclosed to and supported by the Board of Directors of AirAsia Bhd (AAB), since renamed AirAsia Group.

"The sponsorship showed demonstrable benefits to the AirAsia Group and was not linked to any purchase decisions by AAB," the group said.

The board has therefore reinstated chief executive Tony Fernandes and chairman Kamarudin Meranun, co-owners of the now-defunct Formula One racing team who stepped aside due to the matter on Feb 3, the group said.

AirAsia earlier this year became embroiled in allegations that Airbus's US$50 million sponsorship was aimed at influencing the group's aircraft acquisition.

The allegations were revealed as part of a record US$4 billion settlement Airbus agreed with France, Britain and the United States. Prosecutors said the planemaker had bribed public officials and hidden payments as part of a pattern of corruption.

AirAsia said the two executives had properly disclosed interests to the board of directors and had abstained from discussions relating to the sponsorship.

It said independent reviewer BDO Governance Advisory also found that AirAsia's sponsorship of a sports team complied with procedures.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has previously said it would look into the SFO allegations, and Malaysia's Securities Commission said it would examine whether any securities laws had been breached.

Neither responded to Reuters requests on Friday for an update on their investigations.

REUTERS