Reports on Dr M’s remarks on AirAsia bribery claims inaccurate, says PMO

The Prime Minister’s Office today said Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not say that AirAsia was benefiting from the normal practice of offset payments.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday’s media reports which said he suggested that allegations of bribery against AirAsia could have been offset payments were “inaccurate and misleading”.

Asked to comment on corruption allegations involving budget airline AirAsia and Airbus yesterday, Mahathir said it was normal practice for the government to request for an offset to benefit from big purchases.

“And whether you regard an offset as a bribery, that’s up to you,” he told reporters yesterday.

In a statement released today, the Prime Minister’s Office said that at no point did Mahathir suggest allegations of bribery against AirAsia were offset payments.

“He did not say that AirAsia was benefiting from this normal practice. He said that only if the money goes to individuals that it becomes a bribe. If it is not for personal benefit then it is not a bribe in his view,” said the statement.

Stating that it is up to the investigators to determine whether AirAsia received a bribe or not, the Prime Minister’s Office advised the media to be more sensitive as misleading reports could have undesirable consequences on the public’s understanding of issues.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office alleges that Airbus paid US$50 million (RM204 million), and offered US$55 million more, to sponsor a sports team linked to two unnamed “key decision-makers” at AirAsia and AirAsia X.

European plane maker Airbus has reached a multi-billion dollar settlement with anti-graft authorities in Britain, France and the US after admitting to bribery in its international business.