Former Caterham team owner Tony Fernandes has been named in the bribery case relating to the defunct F1 team but “vigorously rejects” all charges.
As the founder and chairman of budget airline AirAsia, Fernandes is caught up in a bribery case after Airbus parent company EADS sponsored Caterham.
That deal, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office alleges, meant AirAsia only bought Airbus aeroplanes.
Issuing details of the case, Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division of the Royal Courts of Justice, stated: “The first count alleges that contrary to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, between 1 July 2011 and 1 June 2015, Airbus SE failed to prevent persons associated with Airbus SE from bribing others concerned with the purchase of aircraft by AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines from Airbus, namely directors and/or employees of AirAsia airlines where the said bribery was intended to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business for Airbus SE.
“The improper payment consisted of $50 million (and Airbus employees also offered but did not pay an additional $55 Million) paid to directors and/or employees of AirAsia and AirAsia X airlines as sponsorship for a sports team.
“The sports team was jointly owned by AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2 but was legally unrelated to AirAsia and AirAsia X.”
Fernandes and AirAsia have denied any wrongdoing, telling Autosport both parties “vigorously rejects and denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing.”
Fernandes issued a separate statement along with executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin bin Meranun, saying they “categorically deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as directors of AirAsia.
“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.”