AirAsia founder and chief executive Tony Fernandes and executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun have returned to their posts after an independent probe cleared them of any guilt, the Malaysian LCC holding said in a stock exchange filing on March 20.

Denying any wrongdoing, they temporarily stepped aside on February 3 after Airbus settled a USD4 billion court case amid allegations the manufacturer had paid bribes to airlines worldwide, including AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) and long-haul unit AirAsia X (D7, Kuala Lumpur Int'l), to win contracts.

Independent reviewer BDO Governance Advisory Sdn Bhd found that AirAsia Bhd, since renamed AirAsia Group, had a “robust aircraft procurement process” and that the group’s aircraft acquisition had been “justifiable and at prices favourable” to the group, AirAsia said.

Airbus’ sponsorship of a sports team co-owned by the airline’s top executives had been disclosed to and supported by the group’s board, the filing added, elaborating that the sponsorship showed “demonstrable benefits” to AirAsia Group and was not linked to any aircraft purchase decisions.

UK court documents in the Airbus case had alleged that the manufacturer bribed two of AirAsia executives with USD50 million during a deal to buy 180 aircraft between 2005 and 2014, a sum paid “as sponsorship for a sports team” jointly owned by the two executives. Fernandes and Kamarudin once owned a Formula One team.

AirAsia’s board accepted BDO’s findings and decided to reinstate Fernandes and Meranun to their executive positions, the airline concluded in the filing. Airbus is the only supplier of aircraft to AirAsia.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Securities Commission Malaysia have both said they will conduct their own investigations into the case.