Tony Fernandes, the owner of former Formula 1 team Caterham has found himself in hot water, with a UK fraud investigation being launched into payments he took from aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
Owner and CEO of budget airline AirAsia, Fernandes is being accused by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office of using Caterham to facilitate bribes from Airbus so he would purchase their planes.
The bribery scandal, for which Airbus has already been levied a record €3.6 billion fine, allegedly saw Fernandes paid $50 million by the company for his loyalty, a payment the Malaysian claims was strictly a sponsorship deal for his F1 team.
Nevertheless, Fernandes and AirAsia chairman Kamarudin Meranun have both agreed to step away from their positions and into advisory roles, until the investigation is resolved.
“We categorically deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia,” the pair said in a statement.
“We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.”
“Caterham F1, the company alleged to have been sponsored improperly by Airbus, was at the relevant time a Formula 1 racing team that had gone round the globe promoting amongst others AirAsia, AirAsia X, GE and Airbus,
“Throughout the period we were shareholders in Caterham, the company made no profit and was eventually disposed of for [£1] in 2014.
“From start to finish, this was a branding exercise and not a venture to make profit.”