Malaysia's AirAsia says review cleared Airbus sponsorships

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 (Reuters) - Malaysia's AirAsia Group Bhd said on Friday that the internal inquiry into corruption allegations by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has found that its procurement process with Airbus was robust and justifiable.

In a filing to the stock exchange, the airline said the sponsorship of a sports team by Airbus was disclosed to and supported by the Board of Directors of AirAsia Bhd (AAB), the name AirAsia Group was then known by, at the relevant time.

"The sponsorship showed demonstrable benefits to the AirAsia Group and was not linked to any purchase decisions by AAB," the group said.

AirAsia earlier this year was embroiled in allegations that Airbus's $50 million sponsorship of a now defunct sports team, jointly owned by two top AirAsia executives, influenced the group's decisions on aircraft acquisition.

The corruption allegations were revealed as part of a record $4 billion settlement Airbus agreed with France, Britain and the United States. Prosecutors said the company had bribed public officials and hidden payments as part of a pattern of corruption.

AirAsia said the two executives - CEO Tony Fernandes and Chairman Kamarudin Meranun - had properly disclosed interests to the board of directors and had abstained from discussions relating to the sponsorships.

The airline said independent reviewer BDO Governance Advisory also found that AirAsia's sponsorship of a sports team complied with procedures.

AirAsia's board has reinstated the executive positions of Fernandes and Kamarudin who had stepped aside since Feb. 3.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)