Airbus to pay record £3bn to settle bribery and corruption probes

Plane maker fined over scheme that paid hundreds of millions of euros paid to secure contracts

Ben Chapman
Friday 31 January 2020 18:32
Comments
'A page is truly turning for Airbus and it can now look toward the future serenely,' a French prosecutor said
'A page is truly turning for Airbus and it can now look toward the future serenely,' a French prosecutor said

Airbus is to pay a record €3.6bn (£3bn) to settle an international bribery and corruption investigation into payments the plane maker made to middlemen to secure contracts.

The joint settlement with US, French and British authorities is the largest-ever fine in a corruption case and means that Airbus will avoid a criminal probe that could have led to a ban from bidding on public contracts.

The company funnelled illicit payments through tax havens via two companies that it secretly controlled. It used bribes to boost its business in 16 countries, French prosecutor Jean-Francois Bohnert said on Friday.

“A page is truly turning for Airbus and it can now look toward the future serenely,” Mr Bohnert said in court on Friday.

Airbus will pay €984m (£830m) to UK authorities, well in excess of the largest-ever fine imposed by the Serious Fraud Office - a £497m settlement with Rolls-Royce in 2017 over a similar bribery scheme.

Airbus will also pay €2.1bn in France and €526m to the US Department of Justice.

The colossal fine brings to an end almost four years of turmoil for Airbus after an investigation revealed a sprawling global network of third-party sales agents run from the company’s headquarters in Toulouse.

The operation, which has since been disbanded, once employed 250 people globally and made hundreds of millions of euros in payments a year, Reuters reported.

A string of senior executives left the company in the wake of the scandal, which also prompted a complete overhaul of compliance, ethics and risk procedures.

Airbus reported itself to fraud investigators for misleading statements it made to the UK’s export credit finance agency about payments made to agents.

The SFO launched an investigation in August 2016 with French authorities following suit seven months later.

Reaching a settlement in such a large case will be seen as a coup for the SFO which has come under fire after a series of high-profile failures.

The SFO is still pursuing a separate eight-year investigation into Airbus subsidiary GPT which is accused of making illicit payments to secure a £2bn UK government contract to provide services to Saudi Arabia’s internal security forces.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in