After a nearly four-year long investigation, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has settled with authorities in the United States, United Kingdom, and France over an alleged bribery and corruption to secure deals for aircraft orders.
As part of the deal, the Airbus will be paying over USD $4 Billion in fines as several countries in Asia, South America, and Africa are opening investigations involving purchases of military and commercial aircraft from the European aircraft manufacturing giant.
Investigators in the three countries have singled out the actions of an Airbus Sales and Marketing division that has been disbanded that focused on sales in emerging markets. The allegations involve the division of the company using third-party agents to secure orders through bribes with several airlines named by the British Serious Fraud Office (UKSFO).
“In reaching this agreement today, we are helping Airbus to turn the page definitively” on corrupt past practices, French prosecutor Jean-Francois Bohnert said. France’s financial prosecutor said the company had also agreed to three years “light compliance monitoring” by the country’s anti-corruption agency.
With the settlement, Airbus will avoid prosecution of the company though individuals could still be investigated and/or prosecuted.
Malaysia Opens Investigations on Allegations Surrounding AirAsia
Among the major companies named in the ongoing investigation is Malaysian low cost carrier group AirAsia. It has been alleged by the UKSFO that Airbus made payments to sponsor an unnamed sports team owned by two of the airline's executives. While not explicitly stated, the sports in in question that has been mentioned in various reports is the now-defunct Catarham Formula 1 team, formerly owned by AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and Chairman Kamarudin Meranun.
Both Fernandes and Meranun have denied any wrongdoing, with a statement saying: “Throughout the period we were shareholders in Caterham, the company made no profit and was eventually disposed of for 1 pound sterling in 2014. From start to finish, this was a branding exercise and not a venture to make profit…We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status.”
Both executives have stepped aside from their roles for at least two months as Malaysian anti-corruption agency is opening its own investigation. AirAsia has pledged to cooperate with the investigation and the country's Securities Commission will also investigate whether the airline broke any securities laws.
Along with the allegations surrounding AirAsia, Sri Lankan Airlines has also been tied to the investigation with allegations over a spouse of an airline executive who was hired by Airbus as a consultant and whose information was not reported accurately to the UK's Export and Finance agency.
Other allegations surround similar payments to executives of Indonesia's Garuda Indonesia and now-defunct TransAsia Airways from Taiwan.
With the focus on commercial aircraft, allegations have been made that Airbus representatives made payments to a relative of a government official in Ghana in a bid to secure a deal for military transport planes.
In a statement by the office of Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo’s, the country would “conduct a prompt inquiry to determine the complicity or otherwise of any Ghanaian government official, past or present.”