KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not suggest that AirAsia Bhd’s alleged arrangement with Airbus SE amounted to an “offset payment” and not bribery, his office clarified today.
The Prime Minister’s Office explained in a statement that Dr Mahathir intended to say bribery typically involved some form of personal benefit and used offset payments as an example of when there is no personal gain.
“In answering to questions by the press, he pointed out that it is normal for the government to request for offset to benefit from big purchases.
“He did not say that AirAsia was benefiting from this normal practice,” the PMO said.
Dr Mahathir then said it was up to anti-corruption authorities to investigate the issue.
The PMO went on to criticise news reports that portrayed the prime minister as saying Airbus’ US$50 million sponsorship for a sports team linked to AirAsia’s founders — allegedly to secure fresh plane orders — were offset payments.
AirAsia and its long-haul sister, AirAsia X, were among firms implicated in the European planemaker’s corporate corruption case that spanned the US, the UK, and France.
Airbus settled the case with a fine of US$4 billion.
AirAsia’s two founders, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, have taken a temporary leave of absence to facilitate internal investigations into the matter.
Both insist there was no wrongdoing in the arrangement.
The Securities Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Malaysian Aviation Commission have all announced their own investigations into the allegations.