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Malaysia’s PM mum on AirAsia-Airbus scandal, but says ‘offsets are not bribes’

AirAsia is studying a dual listing in Hong Kong, part of plans to become a pan-Asian low-cost airline player as it also moves towards setting up a joint venture in China, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 6, 2020, Malay Mail. Getting offsets in large business deals is normal as long as the money is not pocketed by individuals, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malay Mail reported.

He said although he did not want to comment on graft allegations involving AirAsia Group Bhd and AirAsia X Bhd and European aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE, Dr Mahathir stated that even the government procurement policy has deals with offsets when aircraft and equipment are purchased.

“Yes, I hear there are allegations that AirAsia is involved in corruption. I am hesitant to comment, but usually when governments buy equipment, we always ask for an offset.

“For example, when we buy an airplane, we ask for an offset and whether we consider the offset as bribery or not, that is up to you. For me, if we can get something because we buy something at a high price, why can’t we accept it? Unless the money went into your pocket, now that is bribery.

“If it was for a specific purpose, it is (considered) offset, not bribery. That is my opinion,” he said during a press conference after a special address to the Education Ministry staff here.

On January 31, 2020, Airbus SE and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

In return for a suspension of prosecution by the SFO, Airbus agreed to pay a significant fine and costs to the SFO and also agreed to a statement of facts that appears to implicate executives of AirAsia and AirAsia X, alleging that Airbus paid a bribe of US$50 million (RM200 million) to win plane orders.

The document said Airbus sponsored a sports team owned by AirAsia executives while negotiating airplane orders and subsequently, ordered 406 aircraft from Airbus between October 2005 and November 2014.

On February 4, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes claimed that the SFO never reached out to AirAsia during the four-year investigation into the Airbus scandal for any explanation or clarification.

Both executives had relinquished their positions in the AirAsia Group a day before their joint statement to help with the probe.

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